Madness and Mental Health: 2023-4

How Can We Make Progress in Mental Healthcare Research?

This talk in the 2023 London Lecture series Madness and Mental Health is presented by Neil Armstrong and Nicola Byrom.


At present, psychiatry and psychology research in mental healthcare is focussed on interventions. In contrast, social science and humanities research pursues its own, sometimes rather theoretically-driven agenda. In this lecture, Dr Armstrong and Dr Byrom, bring together these disparate fields of research with the aim of promoting more productive interdisciplinary interaction. We will discuss Dr Armstrong’s recently published investigation of mental healthcare that includes conventional ethnography, autoethnography, coproduced ethnography. We argue that how care is organised has a large and under-appreciated impact. The lecture takes the form of a dialogue, in which we consider what form social science and humanities research needs to take if it is to be of benefit to clinical research.



  • Speakers

    Dr Neil Armstrong is a medical anthropologist. He is a fellow of Harris Manchester College, Oxford and a Research Associate in the department of psychology at the IoPPN. He uses novel ethnographic methods to explore mental health. In particular, he is interested in how bureaucratic institutions shape our experience of the world, and what we might, and might not be able to achieve through bureaucratic measures. He is currently conducting an ethnographic investigation of whether universities can become institutionally compassionate. He is the author of the book that forms the centre of the lecture: Collaborative Ethnographic Working in Mental Health: Knowledge, Power and Hope in An Age of Bureaucratic Accountability, published by Routledge. 

    Dr Nicola Byrom is a senior lecturer in the department of psychology at the IoPPN. She is director of the UKRI funded Student Mental Health Research Network, SMaRteN. This network was established to accelerate research into student mental health, engage students in setting the research agenda, and effectively disseminate research findings, to professional services and students alike. As an active researcher, her work focuses on understanding youth and student mental health from a Public Health perspective. As such her research as contributed to the development of the Whole University Approach. She is currently supervising research projects addressing issues of loneliness and isolation for minoritized communities, including international students, and understanding the impact of racism on mental health for Black students. She is an internationally recognized expert in student mental health and is currently collaborating with researchers, educators and service providers in Canada, Europe, India and Australia. Prior to taking up her post at King’s in 2016, Dr Byrom founded and developed the national student mental health charity, Student Minds. Her research today continues to support strong collaborations with the charity.