Short course

Addressing the Social Context of Mental Distress

[16:59] Stephens, Alexandra L An outline drawing of people walking in one direction with abstract character in the centre placed in handcuffs


The details
Addressing the Social Context of Mental Distress
Policy-Makers; GPs, Psychiatrists, Counsellors and Therapists, and other Mental Health Professionals; Approved Mental Health Professionals and Social Workers; and researchers from various social and health related fields.
In person

10 - 12 July 2024

The Centre for Investigating Contemporary Social Ills (CICSI) together with the School of Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (PHAIS) present a three-day Summer School, taught by leading experts and practitioners working on the social context of mental distress, including Prof Richard Wilkinson (co-author of The Spirit Level and The Inner Level). It builds on the 1st CICSI Summer School held in 2023, on De-Medicalising Mental Distress.

The 2nd CICSI Summer School, Addressing the Social Context of Mental Distress, will be held again in person at our Colchester campus over 3 days from 10 to 12 July 2024.

Applications for the 2nd CICSI Summer School are now open.

Book now to secure your place.

For enquiries, please contact



There is mounting evidence that, despite huge sums invested in psychiatric research and clinical practice, psychiatry’s diagnostic paradigm is problematic, and its associated practices produce more harm than good. As a result, the World Health Organisation, among others, has called for an urgent rethink on mental health – one that focuses on social environments and cross-sectoral reform beyond the mental health system.

This summer school explores these issues. The first day is focused on understanding how the current mental health practices function in ways that prevent getting the social context of individuals’ distress into view, and the resulting harm. The second day focuses on the social context of psychic suffering, investigating links to inequalities, to pressures at work and in the context of welfare provision, to traumas of social and personal histories, and to ways our identities and selves are thwarted under these conditions. The third day introduces existing and emerging practical and policy initiatives within and beyond the mental health system to address this social context.

Taught by leading experts and practitioners working on the social context of mental distress, the programme runs over 3 days and consists of a mixture of lectures, interactive exercises, and case study discussions. All participants who successfully complete the course will receive a CICSI Summer School certificate.

The design of the course requires limiting enrolment to a maximum of 35 participants. The course is delivered entirely in English.

“Attending the CICSI Summer School left a profound impact on my thinking about mental distress. With an impressive line-up of speakers... [it] was an elegant exploration of a paradigm shift in mental health discourse. The organisers had meticulously carved a space that fostered curiosity and open dialogue and provided a warm and inclusive atmosphere. There were thought-provoking presentations, with complex ideas communicated in accessible ways and altogether engaging speakers."
Participant in the 1st CICSI Summer School

Meet the course facilitator

2nd CICSI Summer School Convenors

: Professsor Fabian Freyenhagen and Dr Polona Curk, founding Co-Directors of CICSI.

2nd CICSI Summer School Speakers:

  • Dr Taiwo Afuape: Clinical Psychologist and Systemic Family Therapist with more than eighteen years’ experience, previously set up community psychology services for transitional populations (women escaping domestic  violence, homeless people, people misusing substances,  travelling communities of Roma and Irish heritage and refugee people) has worked in a Human Rights charity for survivors of torture; Author of books including Power, Resistance and Liberation in Therapy with Survivors of Trauma: To Have Our Hearts Broken and co-editor of Liberation Practices: Towards Emotional Wellbeing Through Dialogue.
  • Dr Timo Beeker (Brandenburg Medical School, Germany): Practicing psychiatrist and academic researcher from Germany. Works with the Open Dialogue approach and the Trieste Model, seeking to find non-diagnostic, user-driven, and rights-based ways forward within the existing psychiatric institutions. Interested in processes of medicalisation (and specifically psychiatrisation), how they are promoted and how they are experienced or resisted. His research includes work on in emergency departments and in relation to children as well as on participatory-collaborative research.
  • Professor Anthony David (UCL): Professor of Mental Health and Director, UCL Institute of Mental Health; honorary consultant at the Maudsley from 1990-2018, and neuropsychiatrist at the National Hospital for Neurology, Queen Square UCLH, since 2018; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Sciences; President of the International Neuropsychiatric Association (2022-24). Co-edited several books including, The Self in Neuroscience and Psychiatry (2003), and Insight and Psychosis (2nd Ed) (2004); and Organic Psychiatry (2009).
  • Ed Davie (Centre for Mental Health, London): lead author of A Mentally Healthier Nation: Towards a ten-year, cross-government plan for better prevention, equality and support; designer and deliverer of the Thrive LDN Mentally Healthier Councils training programme delivered to 532 elected members in 32 boroughs; over a decade as a Local Government Association Expert Peer advising councils all over England, and serving as a senior Lambeth Councillor including as Cabinet Member and LGIU-award-winning scrutiny chair; studied social determinants of health with Professor Sir Michael Marmot at University College London.
  • Professor Françoise Davoine: psychoanalyst based in France; a former professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Movements, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, where she and Jean-Max Gaudillière conducted a weekly seminar on Madness and the Social Link for 40 years; author of many articles and books, including Wittgenstein’s Folly, Mother Folly, and – with Jean-Max Gaudillière – History Beyond Trauma, Madness and the Social Link, and The Birth of a Political Self
  • Dr Jacqui Dillon: Expert-by-experience; author; activist; speaker and trainer; and former National chair of the Hearing Voices Network in England. Honorary Lecturer in Clinical Psychology at the UEL. Editor of several books, including Demedicalising Misery and Models of Madness.
  • Dr Benoît Eyroud (Université Lumiere Lyon 2 & Centre Max Weber, France): sociologist and anthropologist, expert on welfare and civic law as well as participatory action research. Scientific lead of a program of citizen research on the exercise of the human rights of people made vulnerable by old age, illness, disability.
  • Professor Fabian Freyenhagen (University of Essex): Professor of Philosophy and member of the Essex Human Rights Centre. Working in areas of Social and Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Psychiatry, with a focus on mental distress and its social conditions, and on autonomy in the contexts of care. Author of Adorno's Practical Philosophy: Living Less Wrongly, and papers on Critical Theory and Social Pathology. CICSI's founding director.
  • Dr Anastasios Gaitanidis: Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist with many years of experience, including as supervisor; Director of Relational Psychoanalytic Therapy; Researcher and Academic (including at Regent's University); and Theory Editor at the European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling. Author and editor of several books, including The Male in Analysis and – with Polona Curk – The Sublime in Everyday Life.
  • Professor Ben Baumberg Geiger (KCL): Professor in Social Science and Health, and co-leads the 'Work, welfare reform and mental health' programme within the ESRC Centre for Society & Mental Health.  He is also co-lead of the 'Welfare at a (Social) Distance' project, an ESRC rapid-response project looking at the benefits system during Covid-19.  helped co-found the University of Kent's Q-Step centre. For a time in 2015-16 he was also on secondment as a Policy Advisor at the Department of Work and Pensions.
  • Dr Annie Irvine (KCL): Research Fellow at the Centre for Society and Mental Health; research focused on ill health, disability, and employment in the context of UK social security policy; also conducted research on media technology and loneliness, Street Triage collaborations between police officers and mental health professionals, and telephone delivery of psychological therapies within the NHS IAPT programme.
  • Dr Roberto Mezzina: former Director of the Dipartimento di Salute Mentale / WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training, Azienda Sanitaria Universitaria Integrata Trieste, Italy. Publications including on Basaglia’s impact, deinstitutionalisation, and empowerment; supporting the development of community-based services and programs, which are person-centred and value-based (human rights), including in a London Borough.
  • Professor Joanna Moncrieff (UCL): Professor of Critical and Social Psychiatry; practising psychiatrist; and one of the founding members and co-chair of the Critical Psychiatry network. Author of several books, including The Myth of the Chemical Cure (2008), A Straight-Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs (2009), and The Bitterest Pills (2013). Recently lead author of a systematic umbrella review of the serotonin theory of depression.
  • Professor Richard Wilkinson (The Equality Trust): Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham Medical School, Honorary Professor at University College London and Visiting Professor at the University of York; played a formative role in international research on the social determinants of health and on the societal effects of income inequality; wrote The Spirit Level and The Inner Level with Kate Pickett; co-founded The Equality Trust; received various international honours (Solidar’s Silver Rose Award; Community Access Unlimited’ s ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ Award; Charles Cully Memorial medal from the Irish Cancer Society).

Teaching programme

Addressing the Social Context of Mental Distress, the 2nd CICSI Summer School, is held over 3 days and consists of a mixture of lectures, interactive exercises, and case study discussions. Starting 10am on Wednesday 10 July and running until Friday 12 July 4pm (lunch and refreshments are provided as well as dinner on Wednesday 10 and Thursday 11).

Here is the provisional summary of the programme:

Day 1: Psychiatry, its Social Function, and its Relationship to the Social Context of Mental Distress

  • 09.30-10.00: Arrival and Registration
  • 10.00-10.15: Welcome and Introduction (Dr Polona Curk)
  • 10.15-11.30: The History of Psychiatry Revisited (Prof Fabian Freyenhagen)
  • 11.30-11.45: Break with Refreshments
  • 11.45-13.00: The Social Functions of Psychiatry (Prof Joanna Moncrieff)
  • 13.00-14.15: Lunch
  • 14.15-15.30: Iatrogenic Harms and the Social (Dr Jacqui Dillon)
  • 15.30-16.00: Break with Refreshments
  • 16.00-17.45: Panel Discussion: How is the social context currently taken into account in psychiatry and how it should be taken account in future? (Dr Timo Beeker, Prof Anthony David, Dr Jacqui Dillon & Prof Joanna Moncrieff)
  • 18.30-20.30: Dinner

Day 2: Understanding the Social Context of Mental Distress

  • 09.00-10.30: Inequalities and Distress (Prof Richard Wilkinson)
  • 10.30-10.45: Break with Refreshments
  • 10.45-12.00: Work, Welfare, and Distress (Prof Ben Baumgarten Geiger & Dr Annie Irvine
  • 12.00-13.15: Lunch
  • 13.15-14.30: Intergenerational and Social Trauma (Prof Françoise Davoine)
  • 14.30-15.00: Break with Refreshments
  • 15.00-16.15: Social Context thwarting our Identities and Selves (Dr Anastasios Gaitanidis)
  • 16.15-16.30: Break with Refreshments
  • 16.30-17.45: Linking Trauma with Oppression and Consciousness with Action (Dr Taiwo Afuape)
  • 18.30-20.30: Dinner

Day 3: Addressing the Social context of Mental Distress – what is to be done

  • 09:00-10.30: The Trieste Model: the world-famous community mental health programme (Dr Roberto Mezzina)
  • 10.30-10.45: Break with Refreshments
  • 10.45-12.00: Housing First (Dr Benoît Eyroud)
  • 12.00-13.15: Lunch
  • 13.15-14.30: Towards a Ten-Year Government Plan for a Mentally Healthier Nation (Ed Davie)
  • 14.45-15.00: Break with Refreshments
  • 15.00-16.00: Closing Plenum: How to address the social context inside and outside the clinic (Professor Fabian Freyenhagen)



The fees for the Addressing Social Context of Mental Distress course are:

Fee type Early bird (by 30 April 2024) Standard (1 May 2024-30 June 2024)
Full fee £600 £660

The course fee does not include accommodation (see the accommodation section for more details).

Fee includes:

  • three days of lectures, exercises, case study discussions; and course material
  • daily lunches and refreshments
  • two evening meals
  • a certification upon completing your course.

To take advantage of our Early Bird Discount please submit your application and make payment by 30 April 2024.

The delivery of this course is dependent on a minimum of 30 applicants. In the unlikely event that this minimum is not met, we would have to reconsider the feasibility of running this course.


Accommodation can be booked (and paid) separately. You can indicate that you need accommodation and your preference for it as part of the application form.

There are two options:

Option one:

Wivenhoe House Hotel: this 4-Star hotel is also the conference venue, and there are a limited number of rooms available at discounted rates, at three levels, all including breakfast:

  1. Classic Double: £127 per person per night (assuming single occupancy)
  2. Superior Double: £162 per person per night (assuming single occupancy)
  3. Superior Balcony: £182 per person per night (assuming single occupancy)

If you require a room for double occupancy, please let us know and we can quote you the relevant price.

Please note that we have limited availability for these rooms at discounted rates, and they will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Option two:

Essex University Student Accommodation (single room, shared bathroom between 2 bedrooms and shared kitchen): £49 per person per night. (This does not include breakfast; there are various food options on campus and a supermarket nearby.) This is in easy walking distance of the conference venue.

Please note that all accommodation bookings are non-refundable.

Applying to the 2nd CICSI Summer School

Applications to the 2nd CICSI Summer School are now open, to apply complete the steps below:

  • Applicants should complete the online application form
  • Once your application has been processed you will then be sent a link to pay
  • Once you have paid you will receive confirmation of your place
  • Full payment for the course must be received by 30 April 2024 for you to claim the early bird discount
  • Applications will need to be complete by 30 June 2024 for you to be given all necessary information

For any payment issues or queries, please contact


You can pay for your place online via our Webshop which you will be sent a link to after completing the application form. The University bank will accept Visa, Mastercard, and Eurocard.

Paying by invoice

If you specifically require payment via an invoice, please email us at

Paying by Proficio

Essex Research students need to enrol via Proficio in addition to the online application.

If you are paying for your course fee using University of Essex Proficio funds, you will need to use the Proficio platform.

[16:59] Stephens, Alexandra L An outline drawing of people walking in one direction with abstract character in the centre placed in handcuffs
Apply now

Applications are now open for the short course: Addressing the Social Context of Mental Distress. Complete the online form to submit your application.

Apply here
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