Ross White: Creating personal and socio-environmental contexts for enhancing human development (ASI 2016)

 

 

Creating personal and socio-environmental contexts for enhancing human development

Ross White, University of Glasgow

Efforts to build capacity for mental health services across the globe have progressed in the absence of consensus about what the principal aim of these services should be. Contention exists, for example, about the priority that should be given to getting rid of symptoms of mental illness compared to facilitating people to live full and meaningful lives. To help address this contention, this presentation explores the implications that adopting a ‘human development’ approach might have for Global Mental Health (GMH) initiatives. Consideration is given to the potential utility that the Capabilities Approach (CA) offers for creating personal and social-environmental contexts for enhancing mental health and wellbeing. This includes an analysis of micro- and macro-level factors that may have served to thwart opportunities for individuals and communities to realize their capabilities. The presentation discusses how applying the CA to GMH initiatives can serve to highlight the importance of developing a nuanced understanding about: 1) What individuals in particular settings value as being important to how they want to live their lives, and 2) The personal and structural factors that can promote, or hinder, individuals’ freedom to realize their capabilities and engage in valued functioning. As such, the CA approach provides a platform for considering factors related to people, spaces and places that can enhance mental health and wellbeing. So, in addition to providing a framework for considering the merits/demerits of existing GMH initiatives, the CA provides an opportunity to extend the focus to important issues such as climate change and food security that are relevant for human development. Consideration is also given to the way in which the CA can provide opportunities to critically reflect on how GMH initiatives might inadvertently thwart efforts to develop capabilities by: 1) Narrowly focusing on mental illness, and 2) Relying too heavily on a restricted range of epistemologies and research methodologies for evaluating forms of support.

Ross White, PhD, is the Director of the MSc Global Mental Health programme at the University of Glasgow. His research interests relate to psychological mechanisms involved in complex mental health difficulties such as psychosis. His focus has been on using this research to develop psychotherapeutic interventions aimed at addressing these mechanisms. In recent years, he has conducted randomised controlled trials to determine the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic interventions for complex mental health difficulties. His particular interests relate to the application of mindfulness-based treatments and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for these populations. Dr. White is engaged in scholarly activity that investigates the role that socio-cultural factors play in the manifestation of mental health difficulties, and explores how psychological interventions can be adapted to accommodate cultural beliefs and practices. He is a co-editor of the upcoming Palgrave Handbook for Global Mental Health: Socio-cultural Perspectives. Dr. White also has an honorary contract as a Principal Clinical Psychologist with Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS.

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