Upcoming event will examine critical perspectives on the lived experience of distress


On 16 and 17 November 2022, after two years of having offered the annual CVNI conference online, we look forward to welcoming around 400 delegates to University College Cork for the 14th Annual Critical Perspectives Conference. This conference, now well established and valued both nationally and internationally, is organised annually by Lydia Sapouna from the School of Applied Social Studies and Harry Gijbels (retired) from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, in partnership with the Critical Voices Network Ireland (CVNI). This year’s theme focuses on the concept of the lived experience.  The lived experience of distress is increasingly acknowledged as significant in shaping better understandings and responses to human suffering. Lived experience informs research, activism, service development, and, to a certain extent, policy, and education. However, concerns are also expressed that lived experience is not recognised as expert knowledge. This year’s conference provides opportunities to honour the contributions of lived experience to changing knowledge, attitudes, and practices in mental health and to address some of the challenges in recognising the value of lived experience. This conference will consider:

  • what do we understand by lived experience? 
  • what do we know about the contribution of lived experience in mental health matters?
  • the diversity of lived experience
  • issues of credibility and representation
  • whose interests are served by and through lived experience? 
  • how do we create environments to honour, and nurture lived experience?

Over the two days, there will be 5 keynote presentations and 34 presentations in 5 series of concurrent sessions, including two presentations by Zoom, one from a forensic secure unit in the UK, and another one from India. Presenters are travelling from different parts of Ireland, England and Scotland. All keynote presenters and the majority of the concurrent presenters are Experts by Experience, and we are very honoured to have such a vast gathering of Lived Experience gathered together in Cork, and for presenters to make the effort to come to Cork to present their work.

The 5 keynote presentations, in order of presentations across the two days by Rai Waddingham, Survivor, Trainer, Researcher & Practitioner, UK; Martha Griffin, Expert by Experience, Lecturer in Mental Health, Dublin City University, Ireland; Konstantina (Dina) Poursanidou, PhD, Service User Researcher, Survivor Researcher Network C.I.C and University of Central Lancashire, UK; Raza Griffiths, Survivor Educator, England; Liz Brosnan, Survivor, Researcher and Activist, past Academia and Health Service Executive, Ireland, will explore:

  • how the knowledge gained from one’s own lived experience – and the collective knowledges generated within the survivor movement – has the potential to disrupt the status quo
  • how the discomfort experienced with the job title “Expert by Experience” changed over time in becoming more comfortable with it
  • critical reflections on the role of experiential knowledge within academic research in mental health
  • how people from racialised communities have to contend with racism and intersectional discriminations, which are experienced in inter-related life areas including education, criminal justice and health and how such experiences have a cumulative adverse effect on wellbeing across the lifespan
  • learnings of two decades acting as an embodiment of lived experience in statutory settings, in academia and research plus occupying a lived experience role in mental health services. 

The 35 concurrent presentations will explore a range of topics ranging from experiences in secure care environments; the value of Mad Studies; collaboration around the use of art, creativity and nature (painting, photography, writing, walking); peer support developments and initiatives; critical matters around self-harm; human rights based approaches in mental health legislation; informed consent; family and friends supporting someone in extreme distress; recovery from mental distress in Romania; worldviews in shaping experiences of distress and recovery; exploring lived experience from various perspectives; the importance of relationships; the gift of anxiety; rights around medication, and insight on the nature of care in the global south. 

Finally, last but least, the conference will see the formal launch of the Mad in Ireland (MII): https://madinireland.com/

At the time of writing, there were still some places available, so if interested in coming to Cork, email Harry Gijbels at h.gijbels@ucc.ie and make sure you give your name and indicate the day(s) you wish to attend (either Wednesday 16 November, Thursday 17 November, or both days). You’ll receive a confirmation email, if places are still available. 

If coming to Cork is not possible, then register for he keynotes presentations, which will be offered online: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/annual-critical-perspectives-in-mental-health-conference-tickets-444547873657

The conference details are regularly updated on https://www.ucc.ie/en/appsoc/resconf/conf/ on https://www.ucc.ie/en/nursingmidwifery/conferences/critical-voices/ and on https://cvni.ie/2022-2/ 




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