Democratising distress: Reforming approaches to suffering and resilience in our communities

Part of a programme of regular Resilience Forums 

Date: 20/05/2024 – 20/05/2024


Topic:  Democratising distress: Reforming approaches to suffering and resilience in our communities – Carl Walker

Location:  Room A500, The Checkland Building, Falmer Campus, University of Brighton, Brighton, BN1 9PH

Session Summary:  It is clear that a considerable amount of mental distress work is undertaken in organizations and services in our communities that are not rationalised as mental health interventions. However there have been few sustained attempts to position these kinds of agencies and organizations at the centre of the way in which we understand and address problems of mental distress and suffering. If such organizations have been included in service planning they have often been included as peripheral adjuncts to mental health approaches that are still dominated by biomedical and diagnostic models that stipulate the centrality of individualised biological and psychological therapies.

This forum will explore the transformation of mental distress from the exotic unknowable requiring technologies of government and self, available only through Psy practitioners, to a fundamentally social feature of modern living. It draws upon a number of empirical case studies around the UK where opportunities, comfort, a sense of meaning and social support are facilitated for suffering people in a way that statutory and biomedical services find difficult, where environments are presented that provide experiences of help, identity transformation and community without waiting behind a glass partition.

I suggest a need to step outside the statutory and community institutions of mainstream mental health to explore the ways in which the amelioration of suffering can meaningfully occur through alternative social contexts and community arenas. The case studies are presented within a framework that explores alternatives to the deeply problematic institutional practices that pathologise everyday experience and absent the political and the economic from conceptions of human misery.

Biography:  Carl Walker is a critical community psychologist from the University of Brighton. Most of his work is in the area of social inequalities, informal therapeutic practices and mental distress and he leads the European Community Psychology Association task force on mental health. He recently co-founded ‘Psychologists against austerity’ and in his spare time he likes cycling and writing crude comedy books.

Who might be most interested: Academics, practitioners, researchers, students, parents, carers, community workers, volunteers, public sector workers, young people and service users.

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