Challenging Individualism: A critical examination of mental health related issues through a sociological and social justice lens.

   Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

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  Dr Maggie Long, Dr Ali Graham  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

There are socio-political determinants of mental health; the circumstances in which we are “born, grow, live, work, and age” impact our psychological well-being. These conditions are formed and sustained by the distribution of money, power, and resources. Accounting for power, in all its various manifestations, is integral to understanding and responding to mental health. Despite the structural dimensions of many psychological and emotional issues, an individualised view of these experiences is deeply embedded in conceptions of, and responses to, mental health. An overt emphasis on personal responsibility is often rooted in therapeutic interventions, health communication, and policy formation. Mental health difficulties are frequently conceived as “residing within the person”, with individuals encouraged to take personal agency for their actions and their consequences. This individualised focus, however well intentioned, can serve to reinforce inequality by placing responsibility for change exclusively with the person whilst leaving systems of oppression intact. Those impacted by systemic injustice are often failed by the helping professions which have typically tended to endorse, rather than challenge, existing power structures.

This project will consider mental health related issues through a sociological/social justice lens. It will be interdisciplinary, socially engaged, and politically conscious. It will incorporate methodologies that are transformative, collaborative, and empowering for those marginalised by society. The project will help inform the work of mental health professionals, policy makers, activists, and community organisers by challenging individualised conceptions of mental health. It will endeavour to embed a more systemic view of mental health in practice, research, and policy. 

Communication & Media Studies (7) Languages, Literature & Culture (21) Nursing & Health (27)


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• Foy, A. A. J., Morris, D., Fernandes, V., and Rimes, K. A. (2019), ‘LGBQ+ adults’ experiences of Improving Access to Psychological Therapies and primary care counselling services: informing clinical practice and service delivery’, The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, vol. 12(42), pp. 1-23.
• Jordanova, V., Crawford, M., McManus, S., Bebbington, P., and Brugha, T. (2015), ‘Religious discrimination and common mental health disorders in England: A nationally representative population-based study’, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, vol. 50, pp. 1723-1729.
• King, M., Semlyen, J., See Tai, S., Killapsy, H., Osborn, D., Popelyuk, D., and Nazareth, I. (2008), ‘A systemic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self-harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people’, BMC Psychiatry, vol. 8 (70), pp. 1-17.
• Memon. A., Taylor, K., Mohebati, L. M., Sundin, J., Cooper, M., Scanlon, T., and de Visser, R. (2016), ‘Perceived barriers to accessing mental health services among black and minority ethnic (BME) communities: a qualitative study in Southeast England’, BMJ Open, pp. 1-9.
• Mental Health Foundation (2016), Fundamental Facts About Mental Health. London: Mental Health Foundation.
• Pavee Point (2013), Mental Health and Suicide in the Traveller Community. Dublin: Pavee Point Publications.
• Pilgrim, D. (1997), Psychotherapy and Society, London: Sage.
• Rogers, A. and Pilgrim, D. (2014), A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness. Buckingham: Oxford University Press.
• Sue, D. W. (2010), Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
• Travers, Á., Armour, C., Hansen, M., Cunningham, T., Lagdon, S., Hyland, P., Vallières, F., McCarthy, A., and Walshe, C. (2020), ‘Lesbian, gay or bisexual identity as a risk factor for trauma and mental health problems in Northern Irish students and the protective role of social support’, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, vol. 11, pp. 1-10.
• Winter, L. A. and Hanley, T. (2015), ‘Unless everyone’s covert guerrilla-like social justice practitioners…: A preliminary study exploring social justice in UK counselling psychology’, Counselling Psychology Review, vol. 30 (2), pp. 32-46.
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 About the Project