Accepted Paper:

Accounting for populations, persons and pathologies in English initiatives to enhance (the) public(s) mental health, 2005-2015  

Author:

Martyn Pickersgill (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on interviews with psychologists and the analysis of policy documents, this talk will show how what counts in public mental health, how who is counting, and how counting is achieved all help to constitute the personhood of the people being counted.

Paper long abstract:

Concerns have been on-going over recent decades regarding the robustness of UK public mental health infrastructure, and research into how to improve this. These led to considerable investments in efforts to enhance access to psychological therapies. This entailed the translation of persons into populations of need, ill-health, and particular demographics in order to structure new services targeting anxiety and depression. It also involved the translation of populations into persons, since the 'stories' of individuals provided potent symbolic resources to extend and justify economic and clinical investments. Subsequently, persons and populations have been brought into a dynamic relationship through the operations of new psychological services, which involve psychometric assessments at each therapeutic session. These produce quantitative data regarding an individual's recovery which have direct clinical utility - they are also amalgamated across a service to account for the performance of each therapist, and across all services to understand how mental health investments as a whole are performing. The resultant data have implications for resourcing at national and local levels, and hence of the care available to persons and populations. Further, the psychometrics involved rest on specific understandings of pathology; hence, their role in the production of population-level data helps to produce persons who consider themselves in certain kinds of ways. In articulating and further unpacking these issues, this talk will show how what counts in public health, how who is counting, and how counting is achieved all help to constitute the personhood of the people being counted.

Panel T137
From person to population and back: exploring accountability in public health