Mental Health Discussion

One of the reasons we chose brains as the subject of our exhibition was the fact that they are organs that can be explored, measured and treated in a huge number of ways. Everyone from physicists to sociologists has a means of exploring the mind and these different approaches often yield different philosophies on how the mind works, stops working and must be treated.

Packed house at the Rag Factory
Packed house at the Rag Factory

To get a taste of these different philosophies we hosted a panel discussion based around the topic of mental health, bringing together researchers from different fields to discuss a range of topics, particularly through the prism of the mind relating to art.

On the panel we had Dr Ben Robinson – a Psychiatrist from the Maudsley, Robin Carhart Harris – a neuroscientist working at Imperial College London, Kate Rothwell – Head of Art Therapy at East London NHS Foundation Trust and Siobhan Jones – a clinical child psychologist also working at the Maudsley.

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The panel started with a description of their field and research interests. Siobhan discussed her work into therapy with adolescents looking at why it so often fails, by taking the novel (and yet alarmingly obvious) approach of asking the adolescents themselves. Kate Rothwell spoke of her experiences with specific patients and the dramatic benefits art therapy conferred. Robin gave further insight into his work on treating patients with LSD and Ben gave a revealing background on how he first decided to become a psychiatrist, harking back to his own adolescence “What are these strange sensations I’m having? Oh wait they’re emotions”.
A fascinating discussion ensued, covering all manner of subjects within the scope of mental health. The discussion lingered on the use of psychoactive drugs such as MDMA and LSD – maybe owing to the fact it was a Friday night – and their hypothetical use as therapeutic aids. Audience members even contributed their own experiences with one member discussing how MDMA had had a positive affect on his mental health. This in turn led on to a discussion of consent and whether healthcare professionals should intervene with drugs so readily with some members of the panel praising early intervention, while others found it to be too much of a kneejerk reaction.

Afterwards, many of the panelists hung around for an extended discussion with members of the audience and enjoyed the artwork displays – two of which were based on Robin and Siobhan’s research themselves. A special thanks to everyone who came along and helped contribute to a lively and interesting discussion.

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