• Being Human: Reflections on mental distress in society

Being Human: Reflections on mental distress in society

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ISBN 978 1 906254 06 3 (2008)
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This volume attempts to shed a new and different light on the intersections between mental health, mental distress and society, without offering any programmatic methodology or declaration of intent. An array of critical voices from across various disciplines in the humanities (including philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, history and literature) are brought to bear upon the subject of mental distress as a form of life that appears within particular social and cultural environments.

Being Human provides a powerful statement of the importance of thinking through the humanities for any non-reductive understanding of the meaning of mental distress, and gives compelling insights on a range of problems including; the understanding and representation of mental distress, the history of symptoms and critiques of psychiatry, and what a critical practice within mental health care means. At the heart of this collection lies a concern with the experience of mental distress as central to any understanding of what it means to be human. The book will be of interest to all those involved in the wider mental health field, including, academics, practitioners, service users and families and carers. Students and academics working within the humanities as a whole, particularly those interested in the experience of mental distress, will find this volume to be a key point of entry for current issues of debate.


Alastair Morgan


Part One: Understanding and Representing Mental Distress

1. Feelings, Beliefs and Being Human

John Cromby

2. Towards a Critical Perspective on “Narrative Loss” in Schizophrenia

Phil Thomas

3. Constructions, Reconstructions and Deconstructions of Mental Health

Ian Parker

4. The Authority of Lived Experience

Alastair Morgan

5. Philosophy and Psyche: What can philosophy tell psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy?

Miles Clapha

Part Two: Symptoms in Society

6. The Role of Tricksters in Challenging Psychiatry

Helen Spandler

7. Writing From the Asylum: A Re-Assessment of Female Patients in the History of Psychiatry In France

Susannah Wilson

8. Mirrors of Shame: the Act of Shaming and the Spectacle of Female Shame

Jocelyn Catty

9. Symptoms in Society. The Cultural Significance of Fatigue in Victorian Society

Chris Ward

10. Artaud’s Madness: The Absence of Work?

Patrick Callaghan

Part Three: Critical Reflections on Practice

11. A Phenomenological Encounter: Prelude to a Mental Health Assessment in a Magistrates Cells

Dave R. Wilson

12. Opening up Space for Dissension: A Questioning Psychology

Bob Diamond

13. Clinical Psychology and Truth

David Smail

I found this an immensely challenging book in many respects. At the outset the book's title lays down the challenge of reflecting on 'being human' through reflecting on the nature of mental distress. Having now read the book I wonder whether I am more able to appreciate what it is to be human, but I certainly feel I am more likely to empathically understand the many faces of mental distress and I have undoubtedly benefited from the stimulation to my thinking and reflective capacities this book provides ... Overall, I am very pleased to add this book to my personal library. It contains a lot of very useful material that I shall no doubt return to many times. I believe it does succeed in opening up spaces to think and critically reflect. It also emphasised to me just how little we really understand mental distress, and that being human deserves our utmost respect and awe. Rachel Freeth, Psychiatrist, reviewed in Ipnosis No.33, 2009

Alastair Morgan

Alastair Morgan is a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, UK. He has worked in the mental health field for a number of years, and is also a trained philosopher with a particular interest in Critical Theory and the philosophy of T.W. Adorno. His publications include Adorno's Concept of Life (Bloomsbury Press), and  he is co-author of Values and Ethics in Mental Health: An exploration for practice ( Palgrave MacMillan, forthcoming, 2015).

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Alastair Morgan