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Participating, Culture and Humility in Mental Health: Challenges & Opportunities


14 Jul Participating Culture Humility Mental Health_Image

The department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King's College London is excited to host a public panel discussion entitled “Participating, Culture and Humility in Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities”. In this webinar we'll be joined by an expert panel to discuss the importance of listening and seeking to understand people's experiences of discrimination and exclusion within healthcare or research. This webinar forms part of a wider conversation on how Global Health can be mobilised to support movements for racial justice.

Chaired by Dr Dominique Behague and featuring five guest speakers:

  • Esenam Drah (mental health advocate, speaker, writer, entrepreneur and YouTuber)
  • Dr Ursula Read (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King's College London)
  • Tutiette Thomas (NHS South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust) 
  • Professor Francisco Ortega (State University of Rio de Janeiro, Visiting Professor, King's College London)
  • Professor Helen Spandler (Professor of Mental Health Studies, UCLan & Editor, Asylum magazine)

Each year, the Global Health and Social Justice summer school run by the department of Global Health & Social Medicine features a public panel on representative themes and cutting edge topics that are core to the department’s teaching mission and research expertise.

This year we are proud to announce a panel on mental health activism and the politics of global health.

Panelists will touch on issues relating to:

    • power differentials between patients and providers;
    • structural racism and other inequities within health care systems;
    • the Euro-American expansion of psychiatry across the globe;
    • how notions of “culture” are deployed in ways that racialize and oppress those who suffer from psychosocial disabilities; and
    • how intersecting racial justice and mental health justice groups are mobilizing to take questions of care and producing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work into their own hands.

Research abstracts from the panelists

Advocacy and activism by people with lived experience of mental illness in Ghana - opportunities and challenges Esenam Drah, Psychosocial Africa with Ursula Read, Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London

Mental illness in Ghana is commonly associated with spiritual forces or immoral behaviour and people affected frequently experience discrimination and exclusion. Recently people with lived experience of mental illness in Ghana have begun to engage in advocacy and activism, particularly on social media. Much of this activity is supported by donor funding and global human rights campaigns. In this presentation we will show an excerpt from a YouTube channel created by Esenam Drah, a mental health advocate from Accra, and discuss questions of empowerment, participation and representation in the context of postcolonial legacies and cultural diversity.


Whose Culture? Lessons from Global Mental Health and Survivor Research Akriti Mehta, Service User Research Enterprise, King’s College London

Research based in the Global North locates ‘culture’ as residing in the Global South and within communities of colour. This Euro-centric approach to research furthers the ‘othering’ of peoples in the Global South. It represents conventional mental health research and praxis as value-free, objective, neutral, and devoid of historical and contemporary cultural tradition. In order to examine and overturn power imbalances in the structures that govern and constitute research, there is a need to scrutinize the positionality of the research itself and the culture that underpins it. This is essential for equal partnerships with Global South actors, especially with users, survivors, and persons with psychosocial disabilities.


A vision of Nobuntu Afrifuturist Integrated Medicine in Global Psychiatric Health and Social Care Tutiette Thomas, Governor NHS South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust

Tutiette will speak about her experiences as a lay person and mental health expert by experience. Tutiette is committed to improving health and wellbeing services for all, with special focus on patients/service users, families and communities of recent African ancestry. Tutiette is involved in improving UK policy on African populations' inclusion in genomic health and wellbeing research, alongside advocating for the inclusion of evidence based African Traditional Medicine (ATM) in state funded health and social care.


Re-thinking the silencing of culture in Brazilian mental health Francisco Ortega, State University of Rio de Janeiro

This presentation describes the relative lack of attention to cultural dimensions in the Brazilian mental health field, which I refer as the ‘‘silencing of culture.’’ I will examine the possible historical roots of this process, with reference to theories of ‘‘cultural uniformity’’ in the context of Brazilian cultural matrices. The Brazilian Psychiatric Reform privileges class stratification and socioeconomic inequality at the expense of cultural diversity within the Brazilian population. Therefore “structural concerns” have outweighed “cultural” ones. I end with some observations on racial justice and discrimination in this context.



Helen Spandler, Professor of Mental Health Studies, UCLan & Editor, Asylum magazine

At this event

Dominique Béhague

Dominique Béhague

Reader in Global Health & Anthropology

Akriti Mehta

Akriti Mehta

Research Assistant

Ursula Read

Ursula Read

Research Associate

Francisco Ortega

Visiting Professor

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