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Accepted Paper:

Collective care and mutuality among mental health activists in London  
Keira Pratt-Boyden (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines processes of care among mental health service survivor activists to demonstrate how relationships are reconfigured. It explores how activist groups create spaces of autonomy and asks; what happens when responsibility for healing is shared? What about when ‘care’ is collectivised?

Paper long abstract:

The UK’s welfare system is in crisis, with the retrenchment of services, punitive and bureaucratic procedures as well as harsh austerity measures. In this environment, Mental health activist ‘survivors’ and ‘service evaders’ in London aim to collectivise and ‘speak out’ about iatrogenic harm resulting from such hostile settings (including from mental health treatments, services and professionals). In a context where social ties have often been exhausted, and trust in others has broken down, activist groups often aim to incorporate care into every-day life. Rejecting (dyadic) therapeutic relationships as unequal and individualising, many advocate collective methods and mutual support such as 'being alongside' each other in a crisis. ‘Mental illness’ is reframed in group settings and moved away from the biomedical sphere. This paper examines processes of care among activists to demonstrate how relationships are made, remade and reconfigured. It asks; what happens when responsibility for healing is not placed on one individual, but shared? What happens when ‘care’ is collectivised? It is concerned with how activists imagine and live out alternative realities by generating spaces of autonomy where multiple ontologies are negotiated, listened to and accepted. I highlight the value activists place on relational aspects of care and the capacity to sustain relationships in times of personal, social and economic crisis. In doing so, I reveal mental ‘illness’ and vulnerability as potential conditions for personal transformation and social re-generation, as well as social disruption.

Panel Heal02b
Being healthy (or not) together: wellbeing as a form of cultural belonging II
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -