Kevin Sarwar-Polley’s professional career to date has been to develop third sector community based projects co designed with the people using these services to aid effectiveness and social impact. He is the former Director of The Simon Community. a charity in London working with formally entrenched rough sleepers in a therapeutic residential setting. Before this he worked for a decade in the NHS in specialist therapeutic services for people with complex mental health needs and trauma. Susana Caló’s work focuses on institutional practices, semiotics and militancy. She holds degrees in Psychology and Philosophy and a PhD from Kingston University, on the topic of language, semiotics, and politics in the work of Félix Guattari, with a particular focus on linking institutional analysis to broader militant, social, and institutional contexts.
In recent years, it has become very clear that the mental cannot just be described from the psychiatric or psychological perspective alone: it has become a disputed and financialised object, constant prey to quantification, mapping and measurement, where diagnostic tools and clinical descriptions are increasingly influenced by the pressures to medicalise psychiatry, and are subject to the powerful interests of psychopharmacological therapeutics, as well as governmental and private insurance logics.
As much as nature, the mental has become an object of resource extraction. At the same time, what we refer to as care is also undergoing massive transformations. It is increasingly reduced to psychological-physical dimensions and abstracted from any social, urban, economic, work-based context. This has contributed to its progressive deterritorialisation from spaces of existence and life practices. The person is left, feeling to blame and shouldering the responsibility for their mental wellbeing.
More complex ideas and practices emerging during the Second World War and post war years were at the forefront of important reforms in psychiatric care in Europe. We can refer to Institutional Psychotherapy in France, Psichiatria Democratica in Italy, and the social psychiatry and therapeutic community movement in the UK. For different reasons, they either remain to some extent neglected, side-lined or hidden from history. What is the value and potential of these programmes of healthcare and conceptions of mental illness today?
Through the presentation of case studies, readings and discussion, the workshop will attempt to examine some of the theoretical underpinnings, differences and similarities of such approaches, their evolving practices and methods, and formulate ideas around their use to trigger the imagination of other ways to care that go beyond the neo-liberal project.