PROF PETER KINDERMAN

Professor Peter Kinderman is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool and Vice President of the British Psychological Society. His research interests are in psychological processes underpinning well being and mental health. He has published widely on the role of psychological factors as mediators between biological, social and circumstantial factors in mental health and well being, and has received significant research grant funding – most recently from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), to lead a three-year evidence synthesis programme for the ‘What Works Centre for Well being’, exploring the effectiveness of policies aimed at improving community well being and from the National Institute for Health Research to investigate the effectiveness of human rights training in dementia care. His most recent book, ‘A Prescription for Psychiatry’, presents his vision for the future of mental health services. You can follow him on Twitter as @peterkinderman.

Further information:
Drop the language of disorder (free download)
A Prescription for Psychiatry (book)
Psychology & Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture (course)

ABSTRACT

When Anne Cooke and colleagues published the British Psychological Society report “Understanding Psychosis” in 2010, it was both widely praised and vilified, with the former President of the American Psychiatric Association, Jeffrey Lieberman, furious that the report could have the effect of: “challenging the veracity of diagnoses and giving people who have symptoms of a mental disorder, license to doubt that they may have an illness and need treatment”.

I hope very much that this is true. And we’ve seen significant progress since 2010. John Read, Richard Bentall, Jo Moncrieff and I published ‘Drop the language of disorder’ in 2012, and we’ve seen popular online courses (our own ‘psychology and mental health’ course here at Liverpool has now had over 100,000 people join as learners), textbooks such as John Cromby, Dave Harper and Paula Reavey’s ‘Psychology Mental Health and Distress’, TV programmes such as ‘Why did I go mad?’ with Rai Waddingham, Jacqui Dillon and Eleanor Londgen, the ‘Mad in America’ phenomenon and of course this series of events.

The tide seems to be shifting from Dr Leiberman’s position. In June of this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Dainius Pūras, argued that: “…a reductive neurobiological paradigm causes more harm than good, undermines the right to health, and must be abandoned…. There is a need of a shift in investments in mental health, from focusing on “chemical imbalances” to focusing on “power imbalances and inequalities.”

In my view, these are genuine auguries of a positive change, but it is worth reflecting that this movement bears few hallmarks of academic scientific or medical advancement, where academic arguments are won and changes ensue, and feels much more like a civil rights struggle, with citizens asserting their rights to humane care and the protection of their fundamental human rights.

Peter Kinderman

Peter Kinderman