The value of doing philosophy in mental health contexts

Sophie Stammers, Rosalind Pulvermacher

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People experiencing mental distress and illness are frequently on the receiving end of stigma, epistemic injustice, and social isolation. A range of strategies are required to alleviate the subsequent marginalisation. We ran a series ‘philosophy of mind’ workshops, in partnership with a third-sector mental health organisation with the aim of using philosophical techniques to challenge mental health stigma and build resources for self-understanding and advocacy. Participants were those with lived experience of mental distress, or unusual beliefs and experiences; mental health advocates; and mental health service providers (such as counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists). We draw on a shared perspective as a participant and facilitator of the workshop series to assess their impact. We discuss the following benefits: (i) the opportunity for structured discussion of experiences and models; (ii) dialogue across different mental health backgrounds; (iii) the potential to reduce self-stigma and to increase self-understanding and advocacy; and (iv) the potential to alleviate (some) epistemic injustice. We invite researchers and mental health practitioners to consider further opportunities to investigate the potential benefits of philosophy groups in mental health settings to establish whether they generalise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-752
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jul 2020


  • Epistemic injustice
  • Mental health
  • Mental health advocacy
  • Philosophy groups
  • Stigma


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