Social Power and Mental Health: Evolving Research Through Lived Experience — A Conference

Social Power and Mental Health: Evolving Research Through Lived Experience — A Conference
19 – 23 April 2021
A festival of online and virtual events hosted by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK. 

My Crazy Boxers will be shown in the Art & Film components of the conference. (see full program below)

This conference seeks to create dialogue between two forms of expertise. It will bring together people with lived experience of mental health challenges and researchers, with the aim of starting conversations between these two groups of experts. We also recognise that many people belong in both groups.

Our theme is the link between social power and mental health. Disempowered social groups are at an increased risk of mental health issues. They are more likely to face difficult economic, social and environmental conditions. Gender, ethnicity, sexuality, disabilities and social class intersect with these. What are the latest research findings on these topics? How do they compare with lived experiences? When might research worsen mental health challenges? What kinds of methods can produce empowerment?

We will also reflect on the social context of mental health, power and inequality. While mental wellbeing is now being discussed widely, stigma remains significant. And people who are already disempowered are much more likely to be labelled ‘mentally ill’. How does stigma link to social power? What is the role of psychiatric services and the welfare state? How are power inequalities reinforced, and how can we challenge them? How do we work towards a future where everyone can openly share their lived experiences, be valued for their contribution and appropriately supported in their endeavours?

The conference has been designed with people who have used psychiatric services in Cambridgeshire. Our speakers include social scientists, psychiatrists, psychologists and service users/survivors. Throughout there will be group discussions with local people who have experience of mental health challenges.

Our intent is for people with lived experience to take the lead as we explore the many intersections between mental health and social power. The conference aims to place research expertise and the expertise of experience on an equal footing. We want to work together to find gaps in knowledge, and then outline a future research agenda to address these. How can we challenge power inequalities in, and through, research? And how can we evolve research by valuing lived experience?

Films To Be Shown: available between 19-25 April 2021.

Fat, Black, & Sad, Written and performed by Destiny Adeyemi, Directed by Sumayyah Wong, 2020, UK, 2:00 minutes.
“Fat, Black, & Sad” explores fatphobia, healthism, and Destiny Adeyemi’s own experiences as a fat, Black person. With this film, they hope to open up a discussion about how fatphobia works through anti-Blackness and racism in medicine.

Silence Is Not Golden, by Pei Si Wong, 2018, Singapore, 4:59 minutes.
For a large part of his life, the majority of people who have come into contact with Nigel have never heard him speak. He suffers from Selective Mutism, a rare anxiety disorder that severely affects his ability to speak under certain circumstances. Based on the real-life story of Nigel Ng, a young Singaporean, Silence Is Not Golden sheds light on his extraordinary journey, giving the audience an insight into his inner world.

Catalina, Directed by Paola Ossam, 2018, US, 14 min
An 11 year old girl learns to fend for herself while her undocumented mother spirals in fear of being deported.

Jesse Jams, directed by Trevor Anderson, 2020, Canada, 15:52 minutes.
Jesse, a young and trans Indigenous musician and his rock band, bring mumblepunk to the Interstellar Rodeo. A rock’n’roll survival story of a different stripe.

Big Boys Don’t Cry, by Joe Byrne, 2018, Ireland, 2:36 minutes.
Joe Byrne professionally know as – Freddy black – is an international, multi-award-winning, poet, writer, actor and filmmaker from Dublin in Ireland.

Elephant in The Room, Performance by Lanre Malaolu, 2017, UK, 3:27 minutes.
“Elephant in the Room” explores the complexities of experiencing mental illness from the perspective of a male. This choreographed piece by actor and dance-theatre maker Lanre Malaolu who attempts to dissect the stigma attached to mental health by following a day in the life of a victim, highlighting the constant internal and external battle to be “normal”.

Thank you, Now Goodbye, by Pearl Tan, 2020, Australia, 3:12 minutes.
In her ongoing struggle with anxiety, a woman tries a different approach and makes a discovery.  This film was made during a particularly transformative point of the filmmakers’ lives, and while we would never try to speak for everyone, we do hope this film provides solace and compassion for those who see themselves in it.

My Crazy Boxers, by Krissy Mahan, 2019, US, 8:46 minutes.
Suicidal – or just a working-class gender queer caught in the wrong underpants?
Pixellated fragments slowly materialise in this powerful and distressing video based on actual meetings with hospital staff while in a psychiatric hospital system.

Another Way: Young People Talk Mental Health, Directed by Daniel Mitelpunkt, Produced by Youth Access, 2017, UK, 4:50 minutes.
Young people share their experiences with the mental health system in the UK, and how important it is to have access to local Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS).

The Limbo, directed by Neha Shamim, 2020, Bangladesh, 5:31 minutes.
Every day can feel like you’re going down on a spiral when you’re stuck in The Limbo. When locked away at home for months on end, smartphones can become a person’s only window to the outside world. And so, ‘The Limbo’ is the story of a girl struggling to maintain her sanity as the pressures of being life creep in, leading to the gradual deterioration of her mental health amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Fear of the Unkown, by Daniel Brereton, 2019, UK, 6:33 minutes.
“Fear of the Unknown” is the first film in a series of short documentaries Daniel Brereton has made, exploring the subject of mental health. Fear of the Unknown is the story of an old friend of Daniel’s who spent years never leaving his home. Imprisoned by his depression, it wasn’t until a therapist suggested they have their sessions whilst walking in the hills, that he was finally able to see the world from an objective viewpoint. The film captures the young man in his sanctuary, the Lake District mountains, as he narrates to the viewer his complex journey.

Silence and the Sufferer, directed by Furaha Asani, 2016, UK, 2:23 minutes
On making this film Furaha says: I’d undertaken a challenge to write and publish one piece on my medium blog every day of 2016. During that year I also fell in love with Akwaeke Emezi’s award-winning experimental short film, ‘Ududeagu.’ This film moved and inspired me deeply, especially as I was mourning the unexpected loss of my father in March 2016. With this inspiration overlapping with my feelings, I wrote a short story called ‘silence and the sufferer.’ Someone who’d been following my writing challenge suggested that I too, make an experimental short film out of my written work. Collaborating with my sister on something that was entirely ours became an avenue for us to share something fun together, as well as express our grief and respective mental health struggles through something productive and impactful.

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