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Psychiatry, Madness, and Social Justice

Trainees in mental health care are faced with the peculiar power, granted by our profession, to name pathology, enforce involuntary hospitalization, and administer involuntary medications. We regularly infringe upon patient’s rights in the name of treatment and maintenance of public safety. In addition, we inherit a field which has long been criticized for its role in legitimizing and maintaining the social, political, and economic oppression of marginalized individuals.

At the same time, mental health in postcolonial contexts has served as a platform for marginalized groups to resist the structures that oppress them and demand justice for violations of human rights. By exposing the violence of broader, abstract structures of oppression – such as capitalism and imperialism – on the everyday lives of individuals, mental health also has the potential to serve as a tool of liberation and political resistance.

This interest group we will engage with the complex and varied voices that have explored the intersection of mental health, power, and justice throughout the centuries. Through readings and discussions, we will 1) examine areas of thought largely absent from traditional training, 2) better understand the historical context for common practices and assumptions within psychiatry, and ultimately 3) explore the implication for our clinical work as a new generation of clinicians.