Event: Stigmatising mental illness: are you mad?

Saturday 17 October, 16.00 until 17.15, Cinema 3, Barbican, London.
Part of the Battle of Ideas festival.

Anti-stigma campaigners such as Time to Change argue that those with mental illness face discrimination and intolerance from the general public. Celebrities from Alistair Campbell to Kerry Katona have spoken publicly about their own experiences of mental illness in an effort to reduce stigma and encourage others to seek help. Another tactic used to reduce stigma is to highlight the prevalence of mental illness, with the claim that one in four of us suffer from mental-health problems in any given year. In fact, there was criticism of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) in 2013, when many psychiatrists claimed it pathologised what once would have been seen as eccentricity, as well as redefining normal emotional reactions, such as mourning the death of a loved one, as psychiatric disorders.

Many argue such normalisation unhelpfully encourages people to understand their distress and unease through the prism of psychiatric diagnosis. Others have criticised anti-stigma campaigning – like objections to the word ‘mad’ – as censorious ‘language policing’, cutting off public discourse and debate. Is there a danger that in reducing stigma we absolve ourselves of the need to make moral judgments about what it is to lead a good life? Why does the idea of fighting stigma have such public resonance today, and is it possible or even desirable to be remove stigma entirely from society?


Paul Farmer 
chief executive, Mind
Dr Lucy Johnstone
consultant clinical psychologist, Cwm Taf Health Board, South Wales; author, A Straight Talking Guide to Psychiatric Diagnosis
Dr Ken McLaughlin
lecturer in social work; author, Surviving Identity: vulnerability and the psychology of recognition
Dr Keon West
lecturer in social psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London; researcher into prejudice and mental health stigma

Further details and booking details here.


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