Session: Abolitionist Approaches to Mental Health (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

207 Abolitionist Approaches to Mental Health

Saturday, January 14, 2023: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Cave Creek, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
Cluster: Mental Health
Casey Bohrman, PhD, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Meg Panichelli, PhD, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Erin Hipple, PhD, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Emil Smith, MSW, University of Pittsburgh and Nev Jones, PhD, University of Pittsburgh
The 2020 uprisings in response to George Floyd’s murder helped bring discussions of abolishing police and prisons into mainstream conversations. Much of the discussion within the social work community has focused on shifting resources away from the police to other sources such as the mental health system. Additionally, child welfare researchers have used this opportunity to shine light on the ways that the Child Welfare system essentially functions as a family policing system. Largely absent from this conversation are the ways in which the public mental health system also serves policing and carceral functions. Involuntary commitment, the use of physical and chemical restraints, and the use of DSM-V diagnosis to further segregate and other the individuals whose behaviors fall outside of rigid, capitalistic ideas of normalcy are a few examples of the ways that mental health services uphold carceral logics. Additionally, in many educational spaces that teach about mental health to new professionals in the field, the framework of diagnosable pathology serves to further perpetuate these logics as well as the myth of meritocracy; focusing on ideas of individual “treatment� over systemic solutions like universal design.

Our roundtable will bring together scholars who also identify with a combination of the following identities: lived experience with mental illnesses, current practicing mental health clinicians, and activists. We will explain how carceral logics and mechanisms play out within mental health services. We will then explore U.S. social work’s engagement or lack thereof with critiques of carceral mechanisms within mental health. This discussion will be grounded in mixed methods and participatory research on the impacts of coercive and pathologizing practices, the emancipatory potential of abolitionist frameworks in mental health (harm reduction, meaning centered praxis, decarceration, co-production), and a reorientation to addressing underlying social and structural determinants. The panelists will present diverse perspectives on both the transformation of social work practice and participatory and emancipatory research strategies designed to center and amplify historically subjugated (user/survivor) knowledges.

See more of: Roundtables