Can Mad People’s Voices Find a Place Within Academia?


In the journal Disability and Society, Jasna Russoa and Peter Beresford from the Centre for Citizen Participation at Brunel University in the UK ask why it is that academic research approaches which “at first seem inviting and like they might even help to disrupt psychiatric control,” so often seem to “ultimately resort to marginalising mad people’s own knowledge.”

“The omnipresent psychiatric narrative of mental illness has always had its counter-narrative – the life stories of people labelled mad,” the authors write. “The relationship between these two accounts has always been one of domination: mad voices have been – and continue to be – not heard, overwritten, silenced or even erased in the course of psychiatric treatment. As survivor researchers who have had these kinds of experiences, we wish to discuss parallels between this tradition and some contemporary academic efforts that claim to disrupt it.”

Russo, Jasna, and Peter Beresford. “Between Exclusion and Colonisation: Seeking a Place for Mad People’s Knowledge in Academia.” Disability & Society 30, no. 1 (January 2, 2015): 153–57. doi:10.1080/09687599.2014.957925. (Abstract and Full text)


  1. The “mad” people are only needed as far as they can be paraded as “grateful patients” and psychiatry’s success stories. Nobody wants to hear about psychiatric trauma, coercion, abuse, drug toxicity, corruption and other uncomfortable realities.

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  2. While conducting the literature review for my dissertation, which involved my interviewing 6 adolescents diagnosed with psychotic disorders who were in residential treatment about their experiences with human relationships, I was appalled, yet unfortunately not surprised, to learn that there were ZERO similar studies. The absence of any attention to the subjective experiences of people seen as “severely mentally ill” within academia is quite unfortunate, and reflects the utter lack of respect given to those people whom we clinicians claim to want to understand and assist.

    My project, titled: See Me, Feel Me: Subjective Experiences of Human Relationships Within a Residential Population of Adolescents Diagnosed as Psychotic, was an attempt to give voices to young men and women who are at the same time claimed to be impossible to comprehend and work with and then totally ignored by clinicians and academics. I’ve included a link to my study below, which contains both the abstract and a free PDF copy of the entire project. If anyone is interested in taking a look and giving me feedback, I’d really appreciate it! My email is [email protected]

    Dissertation link:

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