People & research: Elina Ikävalko's postdoctoral research is concerned with mental health support systems of young adults

The AGORA Research Centre brings together a wide diversity of researchers and research groups interested with current issues of social justice and equality in education. Here, we will present you with their current research. Postdoctoral researcher Elina Ikävalko contributes to feminist research on affect and political emotions, ableism and ethics with a special focus on mental health support syst

What are your research topics? 

I work as a postdoctoral researcher in a research project “CoSupport: Interrupting Youth Support Systems in the Ethos of Vulnerability”. In my study, entitled “Affective and ethical practices of nonprofit mental health work”, I focus on mental health support systems directed to young adults. I’m particularly interested in creative and art-based forms of mental health work in third sector organisations.

The theoretical background of the study comes from feminist research on affect and political emotions, ableism and ethics. I have interviewed mental health workers and young adults, who work as experts by experience and/or peer-supporters. In addition, I have done small ethnographic fieldwork in a mental health organisation for young adults.

My research interests also include gender equality politics and policies since I conducted my PhD research (Silences and resistance. Power relations and possibilities of agency in gender equality planning in educational institutionon these topics in 2016.

How does your research relate to issues of social justice and equality?

The study is examining the processes and practices of mental health support and the opportunities of (political) agency arising for young adults in different types of practices. I am interested in exploring, for instance, how the practices of mental health work take into account young adult’s experiences of social exclusion, as well as the intersections of gender, health and wealth. 

Tell something about your latest/current research?

Recently, I have written an article about recovery orientation, which is presented as new orientation in Finnish mental health work but in many countries it has been the prevailing orientation for over twenty years. In the article I ask what kind of practice of therapeutic power the recovery orientation is and for what kinds of problems it is offered as solution.

At the moment, I’m writing about the affective strategies in mental health activism, the practices of solidarity in peer support and the ethical encounters in creative mental health work for young adults.

What kind of discussions would you wish to initiate with your research? 

The official aim of mental health support is usually to increase the life management and social skills of marginalized young people in order to integrate them into education and labour market. With my research, I want to highlight that the field of mental health work is very diverse and there are lots of societal critique, forms of activism and counter politics going on. The third sector organisations offer places where young adults can fulfil their aspirations and potential without the ethos of competition and productivity.

Published 18.5.2020