Sharing Personal Stories in Mental Health Debates

29 November 2018 - 17:00-18:30

Lecture: Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham

Classroom 12, Hodgkin Building at Guy’s Campus

Those not holding a valid King’s ID card can register by emailing Harriet Fagerberg their name prior to the 28th of Nov.

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Video Recording


In this paper I consider the use of personally significant stories in public debates about mental health. I offer one example: the debate whether the biomedical model or the trauma-informed approach provides the best account of distress, revived by the launch of the Power Threat Meaning framework. First, I observe how personally significant stories are used and claim that they do not merely offer insight into a first-person experience or illustrate some aspects of distress and autism in a vivid and memorable way, but often constitute arguments for a given viewpoint in the context of heated and polarised debates. Then, I ask what it would take for stories to be good arguments for the viewpoint they support. In the end, I suggest that participants in a public debate have a responsibility to maintain some critical distance from the personally significant stories that are shared within that debate, as such stories can have a powerful influence on the development and outcome of the debate.