This research aims to reclaim and foreground relatedness as a central concern for mental health and wellbeing. It addresses the real-life difficulties of people with enduring mental health problems regarding the role of social relationships during ill-health and recovery. Mainstream agendas such as ‘social recovery’, ‘relational security’, and the inclusion of carers are at odds with a system that privileges individualism and independence. This project will develop an original conceptual framework, unpicking some of the practical, ethical and conceptual complexity of the relational context of mental health.
Scholars from psychology, philosophy, psychiatry and sociology will collaborate at three workshops, using a fully integrated, interdisciplinary methodology (Berini & Woods, 2014). Each session will begin inductively, with idiographic analysis of case-material, so as to privilege lived experience as the source of our interactions. Experiential research like this follows from pilot work (Boden, Iyer & Larkin, in prep), which captured the distributed and connected aspects of wellbeing and distress, through examination of personal accounts.
The workshops will address three questions:
- Relationships can seemingly create, maintain, and ameliorate mental distress – can relationships be both good and bad for mental health?
- Periods of distress and hospitalisation disrupt relational networks, yet the burden of care falls increasingly on non-professionals – is ‘distributed recovery’ currently possible?
- Open-ended ‘care’ may involve periods of dependency, yet ‘dependence’ can be positioned as ‘malingering’ by a discourse of ‘austerity’. Flexible notions of care and in/dependency are required – how can care exist, where dependency is disallowed?
A final, public event, which will take place in 2016, will allow researchers to dialogue with service-users, carers, clinicians and policy makers. The analyses will be presented as a jointly authored paper, submitted to an interdisciplinary journal. It is our intention that this project will then act as a ‘jumping off point’ for further research.
Zoë Boden (London South Bank University) and Michael Larkin (University of Birmingham) have recently been funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation Flexible Grants for Small Groups to bring together an interdisciplinary working group of academics and practitioners to explore ‘Relatedness and Relationships in Mental Health’. This 12 month project aims to reclaim and foreground relatedness as a central concern for mental health and wellbeing. It will address the real-life difficulties of people with enduring mental health problems regarding the role of social relationships during ill-health and recovery. Participants of the working group are: Prof Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham), Dr Michael Clark (LSE), Dr Jacqui Gabb (Open University), Dr Rex Haigh (Consultant Psychiatrist, Berkshire Health NHS Foundation Trust), Dr Donna Haskayne (Clinical Psychologist at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust), Dr Hanna Pickard (University of Birmingham) and Dr Jerry Tew (University of Birmingham).