Global Mental Health – Coloniality, Technology and Medicalization

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Today, we bring you the third in our series of podcasts on the topic of the global mental health movement. Part one of the series featured Dr Melissa Raven and part two featured Jhilmil Breckenridge and Dr Bhargavi Davar. These interviews are led by the Mad in America research news team.

In this episode, we interview Dr China Mills. China participated in organizing the open letter in response to The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development. In this interview, China shares her concerns and reactions to the Lancet’s proposal, elaborating on deeper issues related to the framing of global mental health as a “burden” and the underlying implications of coloniality, technology, and medicalization. In addition, China tells us about her insider perspectives after attending the Global Mental Health Ministerial Summit hosted by the UK government. In her recent piece for Mad in Asia about the summit, she writes:

“It was ironic to listen to a range of UK Government minsters talk about the importance of mental health whilst sat in a room just over the river from Westminster, where governmental decisions to cut welfare, and sanction and impoverish disabled welfare claimants has so detrimentally impacted people’s mental health and led to suicide. It felt like arrogance on the part of the UK Government to position themselves as world leaders in mental health when in 2016, the UN found that the Government’s austerity policies had enacted ‘grave’ and ‘systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities’. It was equally jarring, given the cuts to social security under austerity, to be transported by boat about 2 minutes away, to an evening drinks reception at the Tate gallery.”

China Mills is a Lecturer in the School of Education, University of Sheffield, UK. Her research develops the framework of psychopolitics to examine the way mental health gets framed as a global health priority. In 2014, she published the book ‘Decolonizing Global Mental Health’ and has since published widely on a range of topics including: the inclusion of mental health in the sustainable development goals; the quantification of mental health and its construction as a technological problem; welfare-reform, austerity and suicide; and the intersections of psychology, security and curriculum. She is Principal Investigator on two British Academy funded projects researching the social life of algorithmic diagnosis and psy-technologies. China is a member of the editorial collective for Asylum magazine and for the journal, Critical Social Policy; and she is a Fellow of the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID).

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James Moore has experienced the psychiatric system and psychiatric drugs firsthand following a stress-related breakdown. Believing himself to be fundamentally broken, he spent many years on psychiatric drugs before awakening to the reality that psychiatry has few answers for human difficulties. James produces and hosts the Mad in America podcast, in which he interviews experts and those with lived experience to challenge some common misconceptions about psychiatry, psychiatric drugs and the biomedical model.