Sapey, Bob, Spandler, Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0970-5141 and Anderson, Jill (2015) Introduction. In: Madness, Distress and the Politics of Disablement. Policy Press, pp. 1-10.

Full text not available from this repository.

Official URL:


What are the consequences, for someone experiencing madness or distress, of being categorised as a disabled person? What are the benefits and limitations of adopting a disabled identity? Can disability policies benefit people with mental health problems (and what are some of the barriers preventing them from doing so)? Can the social model of disability apply to madness and distress (and if so, how)? How much can the mental health service user/survivor movement learn from the disabled people's movement, and vice versa? How do mad studies and disability studies connect, if at all? How can disabled people and mental health service users and survivors work together and form alliances to advance our collective interests? These are some of the pressing questions at issue in this book.

We decided to put this book together because we have struggled over these questions for a number of years. In particular, we have been worrying about the implications of the distress and/or disability conundrum for people with mental health problems; particularly as individuals who may be struggling for an identity that provides them with adequate support and protection, and/or those seeking a collective home in disability studies or the wider disabled people's movement. While there has been a long history of political activism and theorising, about disability on the one hand, and madness and distress on the other, these debates have tended to happen separately. Fifteen years ago Peter Beresford asked: what have madness and psychiatric system survivors got to do with disability and disability studies? (Beresford, 2000). He thought this question was, even then, in need of addressing urgently. Discussion about this issue has taken place over the intervening period, in academic journals, conferences, activist settings and – more recently – on social media. Yet the conversations and contributions have been scattered, making it difficult for disparate ideas to be placed in dialogue with one another.

Although there is much to gain from bringing together disability and madness/distress, as we do in this book, doing so reveals significant points of disjuncture: both political and conceptual. This disjuncture suggests that there is an unsettled relationship between madness and disability which has rarely been acknowledged.

Repository Staff Only: item control page