Vital Spaces: Mental Health and the Biopolitics of Enabling Places

Article Summary by Steven Brown and Paula Reavey

In this article for June’s special issue, Steven Brown and Paula Reavey discuss “vital spaces” and “mental health.” As a Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at The Open University, Brown is particularly interested in ‘vulnerable’ populations whose memories are often treated as problematic. Paula Reavey, a Professor of Psychology, researches the relationship between cultural practice, psychological processes (namely memory, emotion, decision-making) and embodied experience. For “Vital Space and Mental Health,” they combine approaches. Social and material conditions deeply affect mental health, but often there is no coherent approach to studying it. Brown and Reavey offer the concept of ‘vitality’ as a means of describing how environments facilitate ‘feelings of being alive’. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, they argue that vitality is not just a quality of an individual body, but one that emerges from and resonates between bodies and material things, spaces, places. How can vitality be used to explore how movement within and between spaces facilitate or disable feelings and expressions of being alive? Building on extended discussions of both inpatient and community-based mental healthcare, they sketch out a research agenda for analysing ‘vital spaces’. Read more on the journal site!

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