Comment

Critical perspectives in mental health

Applying philosophy and politics as a background to mental health can provide a new perpective in patient recovery
Karina Krawiec

Applying philosophy and politics as a background to mental health can provide a new perpective in patient recovery, says Karina Krawiec

I attended the Critical perspectives on and beyond activism and acts of resistance conference in Ireland last year. The talks that resonated most with me were about philosophy and politics as a background to mental health, a critique of recovery and the new face of mental health activism.

Politics

The political background sets the scene for mental health nursing by defining health and individuality. Being a nurse in neoliberal capitalism means promoting self-reliance, healthy competition, responsibility and respect for authority. In a meritocratic society, where health equals autonomy, to recover is to reject an external locus of control, overcome dependency and become the author of one's own life.

The version of recovery I have been taught at university is all

...

Applying philosophy and politics as a background to mental health can provide a new perpective in patient recovery, says Karina Krawiec

I attended the ‘Critical perspectives on and beyond activism and acts of resistance’ conference in Ireland last year. The talks that resonated most with me were about philosophy and politics as a background to mental health, a critique of recovery and the new face of mental health activism.

Politics

The political background sets the scene for mental health nursing by defining health and individuality. Being a nurse in neoliberal capitalism means promoting self-reliance, healthy competition, responsibility and respect for authority. In a meritocratic society, where health equals autonomy, to recover is to reject an external locus of control, overcome dependency and become the author of one's own life.

The version of recovery I have been taught at university is all about individual experience, being able to live a good life despite the symptoms, having a choice and being empowered.

The recovery taking place in the real world seems to be a completely different matter. Deeply embedded in the social and economic climate, recovery becomes a policy based on a personal deficits model, overusing positive behavioural psychology to blame the individual rather than the environment, and to justify cuts to social spending.

Understanding context

The conference made me feel like an prisoner in Plato’s cave, who is unaware of the wider context. This context is for nursing students such as myself to explore while still at university, inquisitive and with open minds, before we become cogs in the healthcare system.

It is the students’ responsibility to think and to ask questions, to become the critical agents we are expected to be, with the ability to collaborate and a commitment to social action.

Going beyond

All our university life we are encouraged to be critical – but why not extend it beyond the time at university? Through activism we can shape the environment we will work in, transforming not only our lives, but lives of people in our care.

By embedding Descartes’ Dubito, ergo cogito ergo sum (I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am) in our learning, we can become critical students and better nurses.


Karina Krawiec is a third year mental health nursing student at Glasgow Caledonian University. 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to mentalhealthpractice.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs