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

22 Mar 2022

Speaker: Dr Konstantina (Dina) Poursanidou Co-Director of the Survivor Researcher Network, UK

Hosted by: the ISS21 Disability & Mental Health Cluster, CVNI, the Survivor Researcher Network & Asylum Magazine


Current mental health politics in the UK- and the Global North at large – is characterised by an acute polarisation when it comes to issues that are particularly contested in the area of mental health, including the nature of ‘mental illness’, psychiatric diagnosis, the effectiveness of drug treatments in comparison to psychotherapy, the problems associated with the use of psychiatric medication, ECT, and involuntary hospitalisation. Social media, Twitter in particular, constitute a pertinent example of the acrimony prevailing more often than not in discussions of these issues among mental health professionals and service users alike – acrimony that at times translates into vicious and abusive personal attacks replacing respectful discussion and debate. 

Given this intensified polarisation within mental health politics, this seminar seeks to critically discuss two key questions:

  1. Why is it essential to listen to and value ambivalent (contradictory) views, emotions and attitudes when it comes to acutely contested issues in mental health? Why is it so critically important to attend to a wide range of experiences and voices – including voices seldom or never heard – and to not discredit unpopular voices and experiences expressed by mental health service users, survivors and practitioners?
  2. What does an ambivalent stance towards contested issues in mental health involve in the current political/economic and policy context of mental health care in the UK?

Lastly, the seminar looks at Asylum, the radical mental health magazine as an example of ambivalent mental health activism in the UK. 


Konstantina (Dina) is an independent Service User Researcher in mental health. Her doctoral and post-doctoral research has spanned a range of fields including mental health, education, child health, youth justice and social policy/social welfare. She has worked in a number of Universities in England as a Service User Researcher and held a 3-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Patient and Public Involvement and Improvement/Implementation Science at the Service User Research Enterprise in the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. She is a member of Asylum, the radical mental health magazine editorial group, as well as one of the directors of the UK-based Survivor Researcher Network Community Interest Company.

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