The history of mental health services in modern England : practitioner memories and the direction of future research

Turner, John, Hayward, Rhodri, Angel, Katherine, Fulford, Bill, Hall, John, Millard, Chris and Thomson, Mathew (2015) The history of mental health services in modern England : practitioner memories and the direction of future research. Medical History, 59(4), pp. 599-624. ISSN (print) 0025-7273

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Writing the recent history of mental health services requires a conscious departure from the historiographical tropes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which have emphasised the experience of those identified (and legally defined) as lunatics and the social, cultural, political, medical and institutional context of their treatment. A historical narrative structured around rights (to health and liberty) is now complicated by the rise of new organising categories such as ‘costs’, ‘risks’, ‘needs’ and ‘values’. This paper, drawing on insights from a series of witness seminars attended by historians, clinicians and policymakers, proposes a programme of research to place modern mental health services in England and Wales in a richer historical context. Historians should recognise the fragmentation of the concepts of mental illness and mental health need, acknowledge the relationship between critiques of psychiatry and developments in other intellectual spheres, place the experience of the service user in the context of wider socio-economic and political change, understand the impacts of the social perception of ‘risk’ and of moral panic on mental health policy, relate the politics of mental health policy and resources to the general determinants of institutional change in British central and local government, and explore the sociological and institutional complexity of the evolving mental health professions and their relationships with each other and with their clients. While this is no small challenge, it is perhaps the only way to avoid the perpetuation of ‘single-issue mythologies’ in describing and accounting for change.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust [grant number 093390Z/10/Z].
Research Area: Allied health professions and studies
Psychiatry, neuroscience and clinical psychology
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (until 2017)
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (until 2017) > School of Humanities
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Depositing User: Katherine Angel
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2016 11:18
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2016 11:20

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