Exploring the Case for Truth and Reconciliation in Mental Health Services

Mckeown, Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0235-1923 and Spandler, Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0970-5141 (2017) Exploring the Case for Truth and Reconciliation in Mental Health Services. Mental Health Review Journal, 22 (2). pp. 83-94. ISSN 1361-9322

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/MHRJ-01-2017-0011



The purpose of this paper is to explore the case for a truth and reconciliation (T&R) process in the context of mental health services.

The approach is a conceptual review of T&R approaches; a consideration of why they are important; and how they might be applied in the context of mental health services and psychiatry. First, the paper sets out a case for T&R in psychiatry, giving some recent examples of how this might work in practice. Then it outlines potential objections which complicate any simplistic adoption of T&R in this context.

In the absence of an officially sanctioned T&R process a grassroots reparative initiative in mental health services may be an innovative bottom-up approach to transitional justice. This would bring together service users, survivors and refusers of services, with staff who work/ed in them, to begin the work of healing the hurtful effects of experiences in the system.

This is the first paper in a peer-reviewed journal to explore the case for T&R in mental health services. The authors describe an innovative T&R process as an important transitional step towards accomplishing reparation and justice by acknowledging the breadth and depth of service user and survivor grievances. This may be a precondition for effective alliances between workers and service users/survivors. As a result, new forms of dialogic communication and horizontal democracy might emerge that could sustain future alliances and prefigure the social relations necessary for more humane mental health services.

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