Mental Health

Aerial photo of four pairs of hands using different handheld smart devices

An interdisciplinary discussion exploring the role of the humanities in mental health. Lunch will be available from 12:45, with the discussion beginning at 13:00. Booking is not required.

The event will begin with a 20 minute presentation by Professor John Geddes (Head of the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford), followed by three c. 8 minute responses from:

Dr Matthew Broome (Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford), who will discuss his public engagement work and teaching around literature and theatre in neuroscience and psychiatry.
Dr Joshua Hordern (Knowledge Exchange Fellow and Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, University of Oxford), who will explore compassion in healthcare and his Knowledge Exchange project with the Royal Society of Medicine Open Section.
Dr Emily Troscianko (Knowledge Exchange Fellow, TORCH, and Modern Languages faculty member, University of Oxford), who will talk about her work on the relationship between reading and eating disorders with the charity Beat.

Chair: Dr Edward Harcourt (University Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Oxford)

Abstract for Professor John Geddes's presentation:

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder characterised by unstable mood with both elevated and depressed mood occurring – which sometimes coexist. 

In Oxford, engagement between psychiatry and humanities is rather limited, but I am absolutely convinced that closer engagement will be productive for all, including wider society. Current clinical research into the disorder involves questions of creativity, imagery, ethics, compassion and retrospective accounts of symptoms. Closer engagement would actually be re-engagement -- historically, the Oxford scholar with the greatest impact on mental health issues was Robert Burton, author of Anatomy of Melancholy, an English scholar who was also a mathematician, and a vicar.

Bringing the humanities back in to the study of mental health would, in turn, bring care of the mind and brain into the heart of Oxford life. It seems the obvious place to do it as one of the objectives of the University is to maximise the ability of the human mind to seek and transmit new knowledge.

This seminar is part of the "Humanities and Science: In Conversation" series, which invites leading scholars and practitioners in the sciences and humanities to identify the shared methodological roots of their particular disciplines and explore how these points of convergence can be used to address current questions in their fields.


Humanities & Science

Contact name: Hannah Penny

Contact email:

Audience: Open to all