Professor Dave Harper made a call for social action on equality when he visited Brunel for the January event in the Social Work Seminar Series.
Given the evidence that inequality is a major contributor to mental illness and that the compounding of material with emotional stressors is a major factor in many people’s distress, this presentation was a call to societal level interventions, not only individual ones. After years of critique that responses to poor mental health or treatment for distress were too often just individualising the problems - seeing them as intrinsically individual and as issues of individual experience created by faulty individual ‘mental wiring’ or biopsycho-chemical imbalances, we now have an approach that embodies a broader understanding. Fully recognising the social contributors to ill-health and distress is the only fair approach, and is an important counter to today's readiness to blame individuals or families for the situation they find themselves in. It is also likely to be more effective than leaving causal and aggravating factors unchanged as 'contextual safeguarding' highlights in Social Work.
Developed by a group of critical clinical psychologists and and experts-by-experience, led by Professor Mary Boyle and Dr Lucy Johnstone and including including our speaker, this resource is now freely available on the BPS website and can be used to make sure that professionals like Social Workers and OTs, who try to take seriously the environment a person is in, have a comprehensive framework to apply. The Power Threat Meaning Framework is published by the British Psychological Society (BPS 2018) and this document offers helpful questions a professional can ask in order to help a survivor create hopeful narratives about their experience.
There was a full house for this seminar, which brought together students from Social Work and Health Science, and staff from Occupational Therapy and Social Work. What changes to practice might we see if these professions heed this call and demand progress towards eradicating inequalities, racism and stigma?