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RebPsych 2020: Decolonizing Mental Health

RebPsych 2020 will postponed until the fall

Dear RebPsych Family,

We are deeply saddened to announce that RebPsych 2020 will be postponed due to concerns about COVID-19 and in accordance with official guidelines issued by Yale University. The decision was made after extensive discussions amongst the RebPsych Executive Committee, the Yale Department of Psychiatry, and the Yale School of Medicine.

At this point, we hope to reschedule RebPsych 2020 sometime this Fall. We will keep you updated as those plans take shape. In addition, we appreciate all the incredible ideas and hard work that went into the remarkable abstracts that were submitted this year. We would like to hold a similar, if not identical, program in the fall.

We are truly sorry for the significant inconvenience that this change of plans may cause. And we are extremely disappointed to delay what would have been a remarkable array of presentations, panels, and conversations.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we all try to negotiate our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The RebPsych Executive Committee

In 1953, the black Martinique-born psychiatrist Frantz Fanon began working for the French psychiatric service in the colony of Algiers. From his position as a psychiatrist, Fanon critiqued colonial psychiatry’s inherent violence and its role in the psychological subjugation of the Algerian people. His work inspired anticolonial and revolutionary movements by political actors, including mental health professionals, across the global South. In the 1970s, Fanon was required reading in the political re-education of activist physicians working with the Black Panthers, and today, Indigenous thinkers continue to cite his writing in their critiques of ongoing settler colonialism in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

RebPsych 2020, to be held April 3, 2020 at Yale University, asks what decolonizing mental health looks like today, and how we can build on these past efforts. We want to imagine the decolonization of our profession as broadly as possible, and encourage submissions from a diverse array of participants, including health professionals, activists, community organizers, scholars, clients, patients, artists, students, and writers. We hope to raise questions about the colonial institutions and frameworks that currently inform our understanding of mental illness, addiction, or psychosocial distress. For example, as psychiatry continues to “globalize,” how is it complicit in contemporary forms of imperialism? What counts as colonization today? Does it include human beings held in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border, global mental health initiatives, the pathologization of Indigenous culture, or even social justice initiatives within psychiatry? Are efforts to “decolonize mental health” actually in the service of settler colonial frameworks that assuage settler guilt and divert attention away from demands for repatriation of Indigenous land? At the same time, how can psychiatry offer theories and practices for political and psychological liberation and resistance against imperial power, as imagined by Fanon and others?

Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Mental health and Indigeneity
  • Providing mental health to victims of colonization, including Indigenous groups
  • Mental health in post-colonial spaces
  • Mental health and immigration
  • Transcultural psychiatry and global mental health
  • Historical trauma
  • Psychological effects of imperialism and racism
  • Gendered dimensions of imperialism
  • History of colonial psychiatry and global mental health
  • Mental health activism
  • Climate change and climate justice
  • Efforts to decolonize the academy
  • Mental health and repatriation of Indigenous land

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