A Hidden Activism and its Changing Contemporary Forms: Mental Health Service Users / Survivors Mobilising
Department of Health Services and Population Research, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
This commentary concerns how the organisation of State welfare benefits in the UK have changed over the last 20 years, arguing that this has had harmful, even fatal, consequences for people with disabilities and particularly those with mental distress of psychosocial disabilities. This current situation may be called that of austerity. The paper escribes how a ‘hidden activism’ has emerged to contest this situation and explains why it is, and to a degree, must be hidden. I then focus on the discourse of responsibilisation where every citizen must take responsibility for embodying the virtues of the good, working person. To ensure this, unemployment has been framed as a psychological problem and psychologists are now employed to ‘treat’ this problem in order that everybody might enter the world of work. I argue that in current conditions this is not possible for all with mental distress. Engaging then with community psychology, I address the issue of allies and how the absence of attention to mental distress might be remedied by this form of work. I draw on the emerging field of user / survivor-led research in mental health and argue that collaboration with community psychology will not be without problems.