The ‘Relatedness & Relationships in Mental Health’ project runs from July 2015 – September 2016, and is funded by a Flexible Grants for Small Groups award from the International Social Research Foundation.
A feeling of connection is fundamental for a flourishing life. Humans need to belong; we need frequent, positively valenced interactions with others, and at least one strong, stable and reciprocal relationship characterised by care and concern (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). If deprived of either of these, individuals are more likely to be unhappy, lonely, and stressed, and risk increased physical and mental health problems and suicide (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Yet in the context of mental health, relationships are dually implicated in both “the creation and amelioration of mental health problems” (Pilgrim, Rogers & Bentall, 2009, p.235).
However, contemporary capitalist constructions of the self, as individualist and independent, and biomedical models that construct mental illness as the result of biological processes in discreet organisms, fail to take connectedness into account. This ‘internalism’ (Broome & Bortolotti, 2010), neglects the relational context of distress and wellbeing, and has resulted in a narrow, diagnostically-led focus on the individual in mental health services and polices (Pilgrim et al., 2009).
This research project has brought together scholars from a range of disciplinary perspectives (psychology, philosophy, psychiatry, sociology) to reclaim and foreground relatedness as a central concern for mental health and wellbeing. During the year we are holding collaborative workshops to explore three apparent paradoxes.
In September, 2016, we will culminate our work with a public event, attended by service-users, clinicians and policy makers, to examine the clinical and personal implications of our findings.