An exploration of how the capabilities approach may enhance understanding of lived experiences of mental distress
Mental distress is commonly understood as an epidemiological issue, with resultant economic and social justice impacts. People with mental distress face the highest levels of non-employment (Scottish Executive 2004). Paradoxically, social inclusion policy towards this group is hugely premised on employment (Rankin 2005: 51-4). However, Scottish Government mental health policy encompasses more complexity: ‘Some people who experience mental illness may have a good quality of life and experience good mental wellbeing’ (2009: 5). This mirrors a shift towards research methodologies which take into account personal and social contexts in understanding mental distress (Tew et al 2006: 12). This proposal aims to explore lived experiences of mental distress, not in clinical terms but in personal and social terms, through the application of the capabilities approach (Sen: 1999), as interpreted by Nussbaum (2007), to a sample of people in Scotland. The proposal is inherently interdisciplinary, engaging with a theory originating in welfare economics, a health topic, and findings that may impact on social policy. This study aims to shed new light on the capabilities approach, lived experiences of mental distress, prevailing social perspectives of mental distress, and on social inclusion policies.
Professor Nicholas Watson & Professor Kirsten Stalker (University of Strathclyde)
ESRC Doctoral Training Centre Studentship (Health pathway)
Richard Brunner came to the University of Glasgow to start his full-time PhD in October 2011. Prior to this, Richard spent three years as Research Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde. Social research is the third stage of his career. Stage one included supporting homeless people, mental health advocacy, and democratic work with tenants on inner city housing estates. Stage two involved social policy analysis in the voluntary and statutory sectors, including for the Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland. Stage three has included a range of equality and diversity-focused research, firstly outwith universities, and then at the University of Strathclyde.