Walls Within: The Politics of Mental Health

Free Public Lecture

Walls Within: The Politics of Mental Health

Classifications of mental illness often have political consequences, setting mentally ill people aside as dangerous or as not to be taken seriously. This phenomenon is mirrored within people who identify themselves as mentally ill. First-person accounts often represent a mental illness as a foreign invading force in the mind, yet at the same time as familiar and sometimes identity-forming. To label a presence in your mind as an illness is, often, to treat a deep part of yourself with fear, embarrassment, or resentment.

Much recent academic and popular thinking about mental health is focused less on the notion of mental illness as a problem to be confronted and treated, and more on the notion of 'positive mental health', as a prize to be reached by the enlightened. What are the political consequences of particular conceptions of the positively healthy mind? What are the personal consequences of striving for an elusive state of positive mental health, in which your mind will be better than it is now? This lecture seeks to address these questions by presenting 'mental illness' and 'positive mental health' as irreducibly moral categories, embedding substantive if often implicit judgments about what it means to live a good human life.


  • Professor Simon Keller
    Professor Simon Keller, Professor of Philosophy