Beyond “Trauma”: Emergent Agendas in Understanding

Mental Health in the Middle East

This Wellcome Trust supported interdisciplinary workshop is an attempt to carve out a space for a critical approach to mental well-being in the region. It raises questions about what is at stake, culturally, historically and politically, when mental health becomes an area of inquiry and intervention. Specifically the workshop aspires to bring together viewpoints that challenge dominant global health paradigms characterized by an individual-centred emphasis and by trauma/PTSD focused approaches. The current condition in the region calls for immediate attention to the ways we have thus far understood and approached issues related to mental health and relevant policy, both in the Middle East and globally.

The longer term collaborative project engages practitioners and scholars with diverse disciplinary and regional expertise. It will be an intervention into debates on mental health, both generally, and vis-à-vis ongoing conflict in the increasingly misunderstood and misrepresented Middle Eastern region. The project aims to create an avenue for drawing on comparative cultural and professional perspectives on mental health as a clinical, political and socio-historical entity. Some of the lines of inquiry include: What is the current state of affairs in mental healthcare in the region? What are the struggles and opportunities in psychiatry’s interactions with different Middle Eastern societies we well as their medical pedagogies? What are the ethical stakes in researching, listening to, treating, and representing the pain of others? How can we incorporate narrativity, accountability, and collective acts of remembering into therapeutic interventions? What therapeutic possibilities may cultural analysis, memory work, and political historicisation make available to scholars, clinicians and policymakers? How can psychiatry benefit from inclusive and collective narratives and experiences of war, and from a serious conceptual engagement with social science and humanities? And, finally, in what ways can such interdisciplinary debate be established and sustained in order to benefit clinical practice and [ruptured] spaces of everyday life?

We look forward to expanding this working group, beyond this workshop, and to welcoming scholars, practitioners and researchers with expertise in different regions in the Middle East.


Orkideh Behrouzan MD, PhD

King’s College London


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