Workshop: The social impact of medicalising psychiatry

Friday, February 17th, 2017.

University of Western Ontario, in London, ON, Canada. 

Deadline for submitting an abstract (max. 500 words): December 23, 2016. 

Submission is now open for posters to be presented at a workshop on The Social Impact of Medicalizing Psychiatry to be held on Friday, February 17th, 2017 at the University of Western Ontario, in London, ON, Canada.

Decisions will be announced by January 6, 2017.

Posters may be on any topic of relevance to the workshop theme, including perspectives from philosophy, psychiatry, psychology, health science, history, sociology, women’s studies, disability studies, etc.

Please upload your abstract for blind review to EasyChair at

Please direct inquiries regarding the workshop to


Psychiatry is increasingly being influenced by research in neuroscience and mainstream medicine. There is a push to reform psychiatry’s diagnostic categories to reflect increasing knowledge about the brain structures and neural mechanisms associated with psychopathology. Pharmaceutical treatments are quickly replacing talk therapies. Getting funding for psychiatric research increasingly requires a focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms rather than social or environmental risk factors. These changes have surely helped some patients, but the increasing medicalization of mental illness may also have negative effects on already marginalized and stigmatized people. This workshop will examine the social impact on such groups of the push to medicalize psychiatry, and will seek solutions at the level of health and science policy.

In some cases psychoactive drugs and psychiatric diagnoses are being misused to control and stigmatize vulnerable populations. The elderly, and children with behavioral or developmental problems are being over-medicated. Diagnoses like Oppositional Defiant Disorder pathologize normal responses to stressful environments of people in poor and racialized communities. Gender Identity Disorder stigmatizes diversity even while it opens the door to insurable medical care for trans* people. In other cases social and environmental factors cause mental distress, such as in refugees fleeing war zones, or indigenous populations facing colonialism, but it is unclear whether research and treatments focused on brain mechanisms effectively address these problems.

There is room here for policy solutions that might better address the social and environmental causes of psychopathology, de-stigmatize neurodiversity, and provide better support for vulnerable populations seeking care. The workshop will feature  panelists who work in epidemiology, psychiatry, philosophy of science, bioethics, and mental health policy. Participants representing the perspectives of patients, nurses, social workers, and community groups are very much encouraged to attend.


Branka Agic

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and University of Toronto: Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Kelly Anderson

Western University: Departments of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, and Psychiatry

James Robert Brown

University of Toronto: Department of Philosophy

Serife Tekin

Daemen College, Buffalo: Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies


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