I am a Research Fellow in the Centre for Medical History and my broader interests are in the history of mental illness and psychiatry in Britain and the United States during the twentieth century. Previous projects have explored the ways in which constructions of femininity and masculinity have impacted upon patterns of psychological and psychosomatic illness. These projects have resulted in two monographs: Desperate Housewives: Neuroses and the Domestic Environment 1945-1970 (Pickering and Chatto, 2012) and A History of Male Psychological Illness in Britain, 1945-1980, (Palgrave Macmillan, in press). I have a strong interest in making my research accessible to a wider audience and have worked alongside a wide range of clinicians and academics in the field of men’s mental health. I am also a keen oral historian and have undertaken two significant oral history projects – one with women who had experience of depression and anxiety during the 1960s, the other with retired general practitioners. I have recently launched the University of Exeter Oral History Network, which meets regularly for seminars and workshops. http://oralhistoryhub.exeter.ac.uk
My role on the Lifestyle, Health and Disease project will be to investigate the concept of ‘balance’ in relation to scientific and clinical accounts and patient experiences of coping with mental illness. Its remit will be threefold: firstly, I aim to explore how the notion of balance has been conceptualized in broader intellectual and clinical schools; secondly, I am interested in the ways in which the concept has been mobilized in wider culture, and as an ideology for constructing ‘norms’; and finally, I will be drawing on personal narratives of mental illness to extend our understanding of how individuals construct meaning to their experiences of ‘balance’ and mental health. I hope that these oral testimonies will provide a resource, not only for historians, but also for clinicians and other organisations working in the field of mental health.