Mental health care in the age of empowerment

Nicole Shepherd1

1University Of Queensland, Herston, Australia

In this talk I present an analysis of program designed to support people with serious mental illness to live in the community.  Policy documents and interviews with 95 staff involved in program delivery were analysed using a Foucauldian governmentality approach.  A discourse of choice, freedom and empowerment was reflected in the program design.  This discourse was shaped by the recovery movement, a health social movement that sought to increase the autonomy of service users. While promoting autonomy is important, the principle of solidarity could be more highly valued than it is currently. Embracing the principle of solidarity would provide the ethical justification for funding a wider range of services in the community that facilitate meaningful opportunities for participation.  We need to change the paradigm of mental health care and assert that living well is not just the ability to be free, but the ability to be engaged in enriching relationships with others as valued members of the moral community.


Nicole Shepherd is a sociologist with an interest in mental health policy and critical social theory.  Her previous publications have explored the implications of the recovery approach for workers in mental health care.  She is a Lecturer in Ethics and Professional Practice at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Queensland.

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The Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law (AABHL) was formed in 2009.

It encourages open discussion and debate on a range of bioethical issues, providing a place where people can ask difficult questions about ideas and practices associated with health and illness, biomedical research and human values.

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