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Covid and Mental Health

April 19, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm BST

This event is part of the Social Power and Mental Health conference

Social Power and Mental Health is an online conference hosted by CRASSH, University of Cambridge on 19–23 April 2021. Our events have been designed in collaboration with a steering group of local people with lived experience of mental health challenges and/or psychiatric service use.

The conference brings together people with lived experience of mental health challenges, and researchers. Our aim is to start conversations between these two groups of experts. We also recognise that many people belong in both groups.

Nadia Mbonde (New York University(

Visions of Black Futurity: The Politics of Self and Community Care at the Intersection of the Double Pandemic of Covid-19 and Police Brutality

How can the rupture of the Covid-19 pandemic along with the resurgence of police brutality that both emerged in 2020 simultaneously reveal an emergent politics of hope and care? Synthesizing findings from my interviews with seven Black people living with mental illness in the New York Metropolitan Area during the Covid-19 pandemic, my presentation reveals how these respondents have navigated stability, relapse, and recovery. My analysis frames racial health disparities and the global reckoning with police brutality as a double pandemic since respondents found both crises inextricably linked to their psychiatric distress. Adapting to the challenges that undermine their social power as well as their wellness, these respondents reveal a politics of self and community care. I find that social isolation and the transition to virtual work, telemedicine, and online peer support create both obstacles and opportunities for well-being. In each case, the respondents negotiate their mental health through individual and communal daily modes of resistance and visions of Black futurity. While each person’s diagnosis and life circumstances vary, the themes they raise have extensive implications for understanding the impact social power has on psychiatric disability in all its intersectional complexity.

Lois Liao (London School of Economics)

Do you see what I see?: Applying Pierre Bourdieu’s Theories to the Intersectional Research of Social Class, Race and Mental Health

Social theories, such as power and social class hierarchy, can provide a unique perspective to understanding mental health. Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s framework and concepts relating to field, habitus, and capital, are useful tools to understand class positions. Whilst Bourdieu’s original research focused on social class distinguished by quantity and quality of capital, recent studies have added the layer of race into the discussion (e.g. Archer and Francis, 2006; Wallace, 2017). However, there remain limited discussions on how scholars can apply his theories to the intersectional research between social class, race and mental health. Nevertheless, research in this area can help further understand the living experiences of minorities during Covid-19. The presentation proposes that race is a social class in and of itself, particularly on mental health issues during Covid-19. The ethnic minorities may ‘lose’ part of their social, cultural, and symbolic capital, as the dominant society reject some of their capitals. Futhermore, their ‘habitus’ may not be a natural fit for the mainstream fields, further contributing to the everyday struggle and exposure to symbolic violence. Certain ethnic groups may be discriminated because of the pandemic. The feeling of being marginalised can exacerbate when they encounter isolation during lockdowns, whilst the ‘loss’ of capital can be both a cause and result of mental illness. This presentation contains two sections. The first section provides an overview of how Bourdieusian theories can be applied to study the interplay between social class, race and mental health. The second section presents individual stories from ethnic minorities who had mental health issues, including my personal account.

Cassie Lovelock (London School of Economics)

Covid-19, Mental Health Carers and Increased Dependency; How are Carers Coping?

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a monumental impact on every facet of the lives of unpaid carers for those with mental illness. Not solely due to the increased amount of care we are providing but also in more far-reaching aspects of our lives. As a mental health carer my day to day is paradoxically completely different and exactly the same.

Particularly within mental health care, unpaid carers are a disenfranchised and disempowered group who – before the pandemic – lacked the power and social positioning to have their experiential knowledge considered as equal in the care team. With the pandemic that golf of ‘accepted’ knowledge is growing, with unpaid carers reporting less communication with services and their expertise being even more limited, despite and most importantly, a significant increase in dependency from mental health services.

The pandemic has seen the little social power carers had within mental health services stripped away, particularly carers with intersectional identities – such as BME or disabled people providing support. Using data generated throughout my PhD process I will present for approximately 12 minutes on the key themes of my data including:

(i) Changes/increase in caregiving tasks

(ii) The need for transparency

(iii) Work, life care balance

(iv) Loneliness and Isolation

I will discuss these themes intersectionally – as guided by my own intersectional identity as a wheelchair user, mental health carer and service user and someone who is BME – concluding that the negative impacts of Covid-19 on mental health carers are pretty evident but mental health services are not putting adaptions in place and this has ripple effects on the service user also.

Peter Unwin & Joy Rooney (University of Worcester)

Effects of Covid-19 on the Mental Health of a University-Based Group of Service Users and Carers

Early responses to Covid-19 saw many agencies abandon their commitment to include service users and carers in their everyday business. This ethics-approved co-produced presentation of research findings will reflect the Covir-19. The mental health perspectives of members of IMPACT, the University of Worcester’s in-house service user and carer group, who support teaching, quality initiatives, recruitment and research. Members have mental health, sensory and physical disabilities, some with comorbidities. Methodology included an anonymous online survey (n=18) and anonymous semi-structured telephone interviews (n=16). Semi-quantitative thematic analysis produced a range of findings around loss and readjustment, particularly by comparing those who identified as previously suffering mental distress with other members of the group. Some keenly felt the loss of camaraderie and purpose as involvement opportunities changed during the early pandemic. Others saw opportunities for re-evaluating their lives, while those dependent on health and social care services saw their quality of lives diminish. Even in May 2020, most believed that the world would change as a result of Covid-19, and had ideas about how they would be celebrating at the end of the first lockdown.

This University’s endeavours to maintain an online IMPACT member support group will be explored, highlighting how online support excluded some members. Discussion of future adaptions for IMPACT members with disabilities, using the best of a pre-Covid world and preparing for a post-Covid university environment, will be presented.



April 19, 2021
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm BST


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