Social Power and Mental Health: Evolving Research Through Lived Experience

20 April 2021 - 23 April 2021


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Andrew Deller
Ed Kiely
Graham Martin
Iliana Rokkou
Sam Strong
Social Power and Mental Health Steering Group

Keynote Speakers

Rai Waddingham
Imogen Tyler


This conference seeks to create dialogue between two forms of expertise. It will bring together people with lived experience of mental health challenges and researchers, with the aim of starting conversations between these two groups of experts. We also recognise that many people belong in both groups.

Our theme is the link between social power and mental health. Disempowered social groups are at an increased risk of mental health issues. They are more likely to face difficult economic, social and environmental conditions. Gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disabilities and social class intersect with these. What are the latest research findings on these topics? How do they compare with lived experiences? When might research worsen mental health challenges? What kinds of methods can produce empowerment?

We will also reflect on the social context of mental health, power and inequality. While mental wellbeing is now being discussed widely, stigma remains significant. And people who are already disempowered are much more likely to be labelled ‘mentally ill’. How does stigma link to social power? What is the role of psychiatric services and the welfare state? How are power inequalities reinforced, and how can we challenge them? How do we work towards a future where everyone can openly share their lived experiences, be valued for their contribution and appropriately supported in their endeavours?

The conference has been designed with people who have used psychiatric services in Cambridgeshire. Our speakers include social scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and service users/survivors. Throughout there will be group discussions with local people who have experience of mental health challenges.

Our intent is for people with lived experience to take the lead as we explore the many intersections between mental health and social power. The conference aims to place research expertise and the expertise of experience on an equal footing. We want to work together to find gaps in knowledge, and then outline a future research agenda to address these. How can we challenge power inequalities in, and through, research? And how can we evolve research by valuing lived experience?

Registration links for this conference can be found on the right of this page. ​


Supported by: 
20th Anniversary Logo           Department of Geography Logo     

  Homerton College Logo                                    



If you have any specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.

Conference assistance:

BSL Interpreters and Live Captioning will be available at all of these events

Monday 19 April


Panel Discussion: Covid and Mental Health

Nadia Mbonde (New York University)
Visions of Black Futurity: The Politics of Self and Community Care at the Intersection of the Double Pandemic of Covid-19 and Police Brutality

Lois Liao (London School of Economics)
Do you see what I see?: Applying Pierre Bourdieu’s Theories to the Intersectional Research of Social Class, Race and Mental Health

Cassie Lovelock (London School of Economics)
Covid-19, Mental Health Carers and Increased Dependency; How are Carers Coping?

Peter Unwin & Joy Rooney (Worcester University)
Effects of Covid-19 on the Mental Health of a University-Based Group of Service Users and Carers

Tuesday 20 April

17.00-18.00 (BST)

Panel Discussion: Black Mental Health


Aude Konan (they/them) (Writer and Playwright)

Furaha Asani (she/her) (Researcher, Teacher and Mental Health Advocate)

Maya McFarlane (she/her) (Women’s and Non-Binary Officer of the CUSU BME Campaign)

18.30 – 20.00 (BST)

Session 1: Psychiatry and Other Systems

Paper 1: Wendy Burn & Adrian James
The Stigma of Mental Illness, A View From the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists

Paper 2: Ruth Smith and Anna Smith
Chemical Imbalance or Social Power Imbalance?

Paper 3: Neil Armstrong and Lamis Bayar
Power and Its Surprises: Locating and Dis-locating Asymmetries in Mental Healthcare

Paper 4:  Simon Duffy
Peer Supporter as Leaders in Community Development

Local Journey 1: Wendy Joyce Clarke

Wednesday 21 April

14.30 - 16.00 (BST)

Session 2: Activism and Hope

Paper 5: Samuel Hosking
Lessons to be Learned from the Experience of Funding Cuts to Mental Health Services at Lifecraft

Paper 6: Keira Pratt-Boyden
Stigma and Social Power: Mental Health Activism in London

Paper 7: Liz Rotherham
Building Resilience

Paper 8: Annie Whilby

18.30 - 20.00 (BST)

Keynote Session 1

Keynote: Imogen Tyler

Thursday 22 April

13.00 – 14.30 (BST)

Session 3: Social Inequalities and Justice

Paper 9: Rianna Walcott
On Mental Health Support Access and Treatment Outcomes for Black Patients

Paper 10: Peter Beresford
Challenging the Psychiatrisation of Politics and the Politics of Psychiatry

Paper 11: Helen Spandler
Restorative Justice: A Radical Aproach to Mental Health Reform?

Paper 12: Dorothy Gould
We Want Power Too: Perspectives from Service Users and Survivors from LGBTQ+ Communities

16.00 - 17.30 (BST)

Session 4: Stigma and Survival

Paper 13: Details to follow

Local Journey 2: Jo Fox

Paper 14:  Sarah Carr
A ‘Special Problem’: Construction and Treatment of Female Homosexuality in England 1950-1970 

Local Journey 3: Michael Brown

Friday 23 April

17.30 - 19.00 (BST)

Keynote Session 2

Keynote: Rai Waddingham
Listening to ‘Mad’ Voices in a Crazy World