Perceptions of Madness: understanding mental illness through art, literature and drama

Hosted by the PSSRU and LSE Literary Festival

Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building,


Dr Sarah Carr

Paul Farmer

Nathan Filer

Dr John McGowan


Professor Martin Knapp

How mental illness is portrayed in art, literature and on TV can have a positive or negative effect on how the public perceives mental ill health. Representations of people with mental health problems can range from the mad psychotic criminal to people within their daily lives dealing with depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  This panel discussion explores how such presentations of mental illness can affect public understanding of mental ill health with insights from research and personal experiences.

Sarah Carr (@SchrebersSister) has a background as a senior research and policy analyst in mental health and social care, with a focus on service user participation, personalisation and equality issues. She runs her own independent mental health and social care knowledge consultancy. Most recently she worked for the Social Care Institute of Excellence (SCIE) as a Senior Research Analyst and was seconded to the role of Joint Head of Participation. She is an Honorary Senior Lecturer, Institute for Applied Social Science, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham; a Visiting Fellow, Social Policy and Social Work, University of York and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. As Co Vice-Chair of the National Survivor and User Network (NSUN) and a member of the editorial board of the journal Disability and Society, Sarah has a particular interest in mental health issues and is a long term user of services.

Paul Farmer (@paulfarmermind) has been Chief Executive of Mind, the leading mental health charity working in England and Wales, since May 2006. Paul is Chair of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), the leading voice of the UK’s charity and social enterprise sector. Paul is also a trustee at Lloyds Bank Foundation which invests in charities supporting people to break out of disadvantage at critical points in their lives. He is also Chair of the NHS England Mental Health Patient Safety Board. Paul received an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of East London and was chosen as most admired charity Chief Executive in the Third Sector Most Admired Charities Awards 2013.

Nathan Filer (@nathanfiler) is the author of The Shock of the Fall, winner of the Costa Book of the Year (2013), the Betty Trask Prize (2014), and Popular Fiction Book of the Year at the National Book Awards (2014). It has been translated into twenty-seven languages. He worked as a mental health nurse for many years and in 2014 was named as a Nursing Times’ Nursing Leader for “influencing the way the public thinks about mental illness”. He lectures in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

John McGowan (@cccuapppsy) is Clinical Psychologist. Following many years working in acute mental health wards in the NHS, he is now works on the Clinical Psychology Training scheme at the Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology in Kent. As well as conducting research into self-harm and suicide, he is currently editing a new British Psychological Society Report on Depression. He has written for The Guardian, the Health Service Journal and blogs regularly at Discursive of Tunbridge Wells.  He will be speaking on 'Psychos, Cuckoo's Nests and Silver Linings: Madness in the Movies'.

Martin Knapp is Director of PSSRU and a Professor of Social Policy at LSE.  He is also Director of the NIHR School for Social Care Research.

The Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) is one of the leading social care research groups, not just in the UK, but internationally. The LSE branch of PSSRU sits within LSE Health and Social Care (@LSEHSC) in the Department of Social Policy (@LSESocialPolicy).

This event forms part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Festival 2015, taking place from Monday 23 - Saturday 28 February 2015, with the theme 'Foundations'.

Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users: #LSElitfest

Podcast & Video

A podcast and video of this event is available to download from Perceptions of Madness: understanding mental illness through art, literature and drama

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