Visibilising Counter-Stories of Mental Distress

The project's theoretical framework combines psycho-politics and Mad Studies with critical race, whiteness and disability studies. Through participatory methodology counter-stories of mental distress are to be narrated and visualised in collaboration with mental health service users/survivors (young adults aged 16 to 29 with lived experience of mental distress in the intersections of multiple identity categories) and mental health advocates (activists, professionals, volunteers and families). 

To understand the wider context in which mental distress is lived and experienced, the project examines how mental health system is potentially racialising, gendering, heteronorming, classing and disabling, and creates a space for systemic critique of mental health epistemes by understanding mental distress as personally and politically relevant reactions in an environment that produces injustices, social hierarchies and oppression.  

The project team organises in collaboration with activists, advocates and service users/survivors counter-storytelling and art workshops to discuss, narrate and visualise mental distress and encounters in mental health system. A collective advocacy group is formed between workshop participants, project team and collaborators to recognise, challenge and dismantle mental health system as oppressive and marginalising, and to create new forms of radical care. The project produces both research publications and artistic outcomes, including comics, zines, a resistance-themed board game that are to be displayed in art exhibition open for wider public to visibilise counter-stories of mental distress. 

The project is housed at the Centre for Research of Ethnic Relations and Nationalism (CEREN), Swedish School of Social Science (Soc&Kom) at the University of Helsinki.  

The project runs from September 2023 to August 2026 and is funded by the Kone Foundation.