Disability and Mental Health

About the Cluster

The Disability and Mental Health Cluster is an interdisciplinary forum which brings together researchers, academics and practitioners from across the UCC community, whose individual interests reflect the complexity and diversity of discourse in disability and mental health research. The cluster is intended not only as a space where individual research interests in these areas can be nurtured in dialogue with fellow researchers, but also as an opportunity for engaging with overarching issues connected to philosophies of research and pedagogical strategies. Among the schools and departments currently represented in the cluster are Applied Social Studies, Law, Nursing and Midwifery, Adult and Continuing Education, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Philosophy and the Disability Support Service.

Aims and Objectives of the Cluster:

  • To explore and challenge understandings and meanings of disability and mental health in (Irish) society and internationally, towards developing understanding and building capacity for critically-informed and engaged research practice;
  • To explore the potential of different methodologies/ethical issues in research with people with disabilities and emotional distress;
  • To forge links with advocacy, community activist groups and others in our research/activities;
  • To sustain a space for critical thought and dialogue across and between disciplines on matters related to disability and mental health;
  • To critically reflect on the paradigms that shape and contextualise our research practice, curricula and teaching;
  • To create a network to facilitate information-sharing with respect to funding opportunities and to identify opportunities for collaborative, interdisciplinary research and publication projects;
  • To create a forum for sharing current research in the areas of disability and mental health with colleagues, wherein constructive and formative feedback can be exchanged.

Cluster Events

The cluster organises seminars and other events at which ISS21 members and invited speakers present their research and discuss key issues relating to disability and mental health. Highlights from recent years include:

Unleashing the Voice within: Challenging current responses of mental health systems to young people in distress, 3 April 2023

This seminar explored different ways of supporting young people experiencing distress, beyond the current services available. Co-hosted with CVNI and Mad In Ireland.

'Last night I was shot, you were shot too’: Ethical, political and methodological dilemmas in doing survivor research in mental health, 18 November 2022

In this seminar, Dr Konstantina (Dina) Poursanidou explored the ethical, political and methodological struggles implicated in the task of constructing and negotiating her double/liminal identity as an academic researcher and a mental health service user. 

First Do No Harm: Iatrogenic Harm in Mental Health, 26 April 2022

In this seminar, co-hosted by the Disability & Mental Health Research Cluster & Critical Voices Network Ireland, presenter Jacqui Dillon explored the phenomenon of iatrogenic harm: what is it, how is it caused what can be done about it. Further details available here

"And the activists tell us that meds are evil": Polarised mental health politics and the struggle for ambivalence, 22 March 2022

Dr Konstantina (Dina) Poursanidou (Co-Director of the Survivor Researcher Network, UK) explored polarisation and the contested nature of certain areas of mental health policy and practice. A recording is available here

"Can you help me get out?": Ethical, political and methodological struggles in doing survivor research in mental health, 15 March 2022

In this seminar, Dina Poursanidou (Co-Director of the Survivor Researcher Network, UK) explored the identity and other struggles implicated in the task of constructing and negotiating her double identity as an academic researcher and a mental health service user. This was the second in a series of events co-hosted by the ISS21 Disability & Mental Health Cluster, Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI), the Survivor Researcher Network & Asylum Magazine. A recording is available here 

"Yes, but where do you really come from?" Race, Racism and Mental Health, 15 February 2022 

In this seminar Sonia Thompson (Co-Director of the Survivor Researcher Network, UK) critically explored constructions of race and racism; looked at the ways in which racialised people are 'othered'; and at how racism impacts on mental health. A recording is available here

Disability, Mental Health and the Ethics of Vulnerability, February 2019 

This half-day seminar explored the concept of vulnerability in the contexts of mental health and disability-related research. Speakers included: Dr Konstantina (Dina) Poursanidou (Survivor Researcher Network/National Survivor User Network, UK); Nicola Maxwell and Dr Claire Edwards (School of Applied Social Studies, UCC); Dr Katherine Furman (Department of Philosophy, UCC); and Prof Mary Donnelly (School of Law, UCC). For further details, please click here

The Bumpy Road Towards the Irish Sign Language Act, March 2018 

Dr John Bosco Conama (Centre for Deaf Studies, Trinity College Dublin) charted the progress of the Irish Sign Language recognition campaign and explored some critical considerations for language rights activism. The seminar was hosted by the Disability and Mental Health Cluster in conjunction with UCC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit, as part of UCC Equality Week, March 6th - 9th 2018.

Inter-disciplinary Encounters: Neuroscience, Social Science and the Politics of Research, May 2017

On 5 May 2017, the ISS21 Children and Young People Cluster, and ISS21 Disability and Mental Health Cluster, in conjunction with the School of Applied Social Studies, hosted a half day seminar exploring the relationship between neuroscientific and social scientific knowledges in the context of early intervention with children, and autism. Papers were presented by leading researchers in the field of early intervention and autism: Ilina Singh, Professor of Neuroscience and Ethics, University of Oxford, and Dr. Steven Kapp, Research Fellow in sociology at the University of Exeter. Further details available here

Connections: Exploring Acquired Brain Injury through the Medium of Dance, February 2016

The ISS21 Disability and Mental Health Research Cluster held a seminar on the theme of dance and acquired brain injury on 25th February 2016. The key contributors were Inma Pavon (UCC), Paula Larkin (Headway) and contributing dancers on the Connections project. Further details available here

Research Projects

ISS21 research projects linked to the Disability and Mental Health Cluster include:

ISL-HEALTH: Ensuring Access Provision to Public Health Services for the Irish Deaf Community (2021-2022)

Learning Disrupted: Young people with disabilities' access to and experience of learning & workplace-based training during COVID-19 (2021-2022)

Disability and the Creation of SAFE(R)SPACE (2016-2019)

Guidance for Public Bodies on Providing Access for Deaf Irish Sign Language Users (2018-2021)

Cluster Membership

For a list of cluster members, please click on the following link: Cluster Members

New members welcome - please contact Cluster Leader Dr Gill Harold (g.harold@ucc.ie) or the ISS21 Research Coordinator (m.scanlon@ucc.ie).

Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

Top Floor, Carrigbawn/Safari Building, Donovan Road, Cork, T12 YE30