This post is the fifth in a series of posts on a project on agency and youth mental health funded by a MRC/AHRC/ESRC Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind: Engagement Award and led by Rose McCabe at City University. Today it is my turn (Lisa Bortolotti) to answer four questions about the project.
I am Professor of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, affiliated with the Department of Philosophy and the Institute for Mental Health. I am a philosopher of psychology, interested in belief, rationality, self-knowledge, and mental health.
The encounter between a mental healthcare practitioner and a young person experiencing a mental health crisis is the paradigmatic case of an interaction characterised by power imbalances: the practitioner is an expert who can assess risks and prescribe treatment, whereas the young person is thought of as a vulnerable and inexperienced person who depends on the practitioner for further support. We would expect epistemic injustice to flourish in this context. Epistemic injustice occurs when a person is discredited as a knower due to negative associations triggered by the person's identity.
Why is the focus of agency important in this context?
What do your experience and disciplinary background bring to the project?
I would like for everybody who deals with young people, not just healthcare practitioners, but also parents and educators, to appreciate the damage that unchallenged negative stereotypes can cause in interactions, and how easy it is, often without malice or ill-intent, to communicate in a way that makes young people feel bad about themselves and leaves them unsupported.