School of Geography

David M. Smith Annual Lecture: Well-Being, Mental Health and the Smiths

26 November 2014

Time: 6:00 - 7:00pm
Venue: David Sizer lecture Theatre, The Bancroft Building

Eventbrite - David M. Smith Annual Lecture 2014: Well-Being, Mental Health and the Smiths

Professor Chris Philo, School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow

How should we understand and respond to damaged psyches living in devastated places? The need to take seriously well-being and mental health has recently become part of wider public discourse. However, this often ignores the substantial efforts made by geographers in the 1970s to invigorate a cross-disciplinary concern for well-being. In this lecture, Professor Chris Philo (University of Glasgow) will look at two such pioneers of this work named Smith: David and Chris.

The innovative work of David Smith sought to create a geography of well-being (or ‘welfare geography’) by considering how the material and structural inequalities of wealth and social class shaped levels of well-being for particular people living in particular places. His namesake, Chris Smith, concentrated on positive mental health and introduced the notion of ‘therapeutic communities’ to geographers in the late-1970s/early-1980s. For these scholars, the complex, often fraught, relations between mental ill-health and mental (good) health were crucial, with the latter always being conceived as more than the inverse of the former (and as being interwoven with a host of spatial and environmental considerations at diverse scales). This lecture will explore these historiographic moments, and in so doing deploy them in critiquing current mental health agendas (in academic and policy circles) where individualising constructs of ‘happiness’ arguably present a neo-liberal ‘wash’, draining away sensitivity towards– and possible practical responses – those with mental illness and the places they inhabit..

Chris Philo is Professor of Geography in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He has published extensively on the historical, cultural and rural geographies of mental ill-health, including his 2004 book, A Geographical History of Institutional Provision for the Insane from Medieval Times to the 1860s in England and Wales: The Space Reserved for Insanity. He has also made major contributions to social geography, children's geographies; the new animal geographies and the history, historiography and theoretical development of geography.