Regulating Mental Health: Humanitarian Reason and the Structuring of Research and Service-Design

This seminar will discuss the forms of humanitarian reason that (are claimed to) structure two case studies, and consider the ensuing regulatory effects.

Dr Martyn Pickersgill, Edinburgh Medical School,

Mental health is an area that has commanded some attention by lawyers and socio-legal scholars in recent years, not least as a consequence of the controversial reforms to the 1983 Mental Health Act of England and Wales. Certainly, black-letter law has wide-ranging impacts on the delivery of interventions (around consent, capacity, coercion, and so on). We can also discern a number of regulatory effects produced through processes of service innovation, especially with regards to psychological therapy across the UK. Further, new international developments in how psychiatric disorders are researched – and, hence, what they are taken to be – have implications for the future of services. In turn, there are ramifications for the legitimacy, authority and assumed expertise of treatment providers, as well as the operation of legal tools such as the Mental Health Act. In this talk, I will reflect on such issues, drawing from interview data concerning two Wellcome Trust-funded projects: the first, an analysis of the social dimensions of initiatives to enhance access to psychological therapy in England and Scotland; the second, a new project interrogating innovation in psychiatric diagnosis across the US and the UK. I will discuss the forms of humanitarian reason that (are claimed to) structure both of the cases I explore, and consider the ensuing regulatory effects on service structures, staff and users in terms of their practices and emotions.

Martyn Pickersgill is Wellcome Trust Reader in the Social Studies of Biomedicine, based in Edinburgh Medical School. He is particularly interested in the sociologies of neuroscience and mental health. Martyn has been a principal or co-investigator on grants from AHRC, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust and Wellcome Trust, and received fellowships from the Newby and Wellcome Trusts. He is a member of the BBSRC Bioscience for Society Strategy Panel, the ALLEA Science Ethics Working Group, and various journal Editorial Boards. In 2015, he became the recipient of a 5 year Wellcome Trust University Award, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh Henry Duncan Medal for Social Science.