My interest in mental health pre-dates the crazy proliferation of media offerings which are doing their best to raise awareness of the ever-increasing global mental health crisis, and the fact that it has now become a ticket which all sorts of professionals in all sorts of sectors are desperate to get their hands on – for all sorts of reasons.
In my case it is entirely personal. Mental health challenges have touched my family on both my father’s and mother’s side, and at more than one generational level. I myself have suffered badly but I have been able to avoid becoming a NHS mental health service user, for which I could not be more grateful. Others have not been so fortunate – including various friends and associates.
The bigoted racial ideologies that inhere within the historical genesis of modern experimental psychology and the limited anthropological conceptions inherent within psychiatry have become a growing concern for more and more thinkers (inside and outside the professional world of ‘psych practice’). This does not mean that they have nothing to offer – but it does mean that they should be interrogated more rigorously by more constituencies than is currently the case. In certain ways it appears as if postmodernity has come and gone and the NHS never really noticed – but at the same time, the increasing awareness of the importance of ‘patient knowledge’ is beginning to have an impact.
The Church has not been very good at dealing with people suffering in this way, and the conspicuous denial on the part of many Christians of mental illness as an ontologically-extant reality bears no resemblance to (for example) the one enumerated by Tomas Szasz’s famous 1960 essay. But if you are – as I am – an African-born Caribbean male living in the UK, you are now in the demographic of those most likely to be in a jail cell or a mental health institution. I can no longer stand idly by – people are suffering – not just black men – and I am determined to do what I can to help and to support those who help them.
I am particularly interested in diagnostic practices and the conceptions of language which go into the necessary judgement for diagnosis. I am especially interested in how the psych disciplines (conceptually and clinically) handle service users who have a religious affiliation – because in some cases that will aid their recovery. In others, it will be the reason for their breakdown. This is why I myself need music as a necessary counterpoint to words and ideas – because as some intellectual historians have noted, philosophers can be a little on the unstable side even as they pull things apart which others might not have considered to shed light on thought itself. And bad theology and toxic religion have more capacity than many other things to send good people into psychiatric meltdown. I have seen it at first hand.
As such, I am now very interested in the philosophy of psychiatry – and specifically in the work being done by Tim Thornton at UCLan (with whom I hope to study) and also Rachel Cooper at Lancaster University. In terms of patient experience and patient care, I am also very interested in the work being done by Dawn Edge at Manchester University. Whether as an IMHA or by some other rubric, I intend to become someone who can use the gift of language to be a bona fide advocate for mental health sufferers and contribute to the mediation work going on between the NHS and other care-giving organisations (including the Church) to help make a substantive difference to the world that I am still alive and privileged to inhabit.