What is Mad Studies and why is it important to Occupational Therapy?

“Oor Mad History” – book by CAPS Independent Advocacy

Welcome to the first blog on the MSc Mad Studies at Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh, Scotland. I am Elaine the Programme Leader of the first MSc Mad Studies globally. I am also a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy.

That’s the question I always get asked “What actually is Mad Studies?”

Mad Studies is an emerging academic discipline that explores the global knowledge that has emerged from the mad movement. This body of knowledge includes the exploration of the dominant understandings of madness. It examines individual and collective experiences of madness. It offers a critique of the mental health service landscape and the cultural and socio-political responses experienced by the mad community. It evaluates activist responses and the creation of mad knowledge and action. What is central to the philosophy of this MSc Mad Studies programme is the importance of the mad community critiquing the dominant discourses on madness by creating its own discourses, spaces, partnerships, alternatives, and organisations. At its analytic core Mad Studies should have mad people, mad issues, and mad culture.

What is the background to my involvement with Mad Studies?

I have been involved in Mad Studies since 2012 when in partnership with CAPS Independent Advocacy when we designed a short free six-week course titled ‘Mad Peoples History and identity’. This is an annual course for people with lived experience of mental health issues and is funded by Thrive Edinburgh. We then developed an MSc in Mad Studies that started in January 2021.

This new MSc Mad Studies Programme at Queen Margaret University is the first of its kind internationally. It has been designed in partnership with CAPS Independent Advocacy and academics at (QMU) from Occupational Therapy and Public Sociology.

  • This is the first Mad Studies MSc Internationally.
  • There are some funded places for graduates with lived experience of mental health issues.
  • It is a unique dialogical space to share and expand knowledge, skills, practice and actions with activists and the mad community.
  • It involves academics and activists who have diverse community experience, and who are engaged with critical education, activism, and innovative research.

Who is the course for?

This MSc course will be particularly suitable for you if you are a graduate with lived experience of mental health issues engaged in the mad movement and or mental health organisations within the third or public sectors. You may be a student, volunteer, activist, or employee who wants to learn how Mad Studies theory and research can meaningfully contribute to your academic skills, activism, and work. It will also be suitable for you if you are a professional who is looking to expand your knowledge, skills, and practice through single CPD modules in Mad Studies. You can study full time, part time, on campus or by distance.

If you want more information or want to discuss this work with me, I would be delighted to hear from you or come to your organisation/events to share and discuss this work. Please contact me at: eballantyne@qmu.ac.uk) or find out about this work at MSc. PgDip. PgCert Mad Studies |Queen Margaret University (qmu.ac.uk)

Written by Elaine Ballantyne, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy and Programme Leader of MSc Mad Studies at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Elaine Ballantyne

Elaine graduated from Glasgow School of Occupational Therapy in 1983 and worked for nineteen years in mental health and social work nationally and internationally before joining Queen Margaret University as a lecturer in 2002.

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