Composing Well-being: Mental Health and the Mass Observation Project in Twentieth-Century Britain

A new piece in Social History of Medicine may interest AHP readers: “Composing Well-being: Mental Health and the Mass Observation Project in Twentieth-Century Britain” by Andrew Burchell and Mathew Thomson. Abstract:

This article argues that the Mass Observation Project (MOP) at the University of Sussex offers a unique window onto the history of mental health and the voices of those who have lived with mental health conditions during the late-twentieth century. This article analyses how a sample of MOP participants use their writing to reflect on their experiences, and compose narratives about, mental illness over time. More specifically, we suggest that MOP’s capacity for the longitudinal study of individual respondents (underutilised by historians of mental health) offers exciting historiographical and methodological possibilities, not just in the history of mental health but for historians of medicine more generally. We conclude by considering how, for a handful of the participants in the project, mental health is entwined with MOP, as project participants deploy the archive to write about their experiences and even find something akin to therapy in the narrative act.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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