How time flies! On the 9th of June 2022 we launched Thinkful.ie - an online platform with the aim of making accessible the voices, perspectives and ideas of those working at the intersection of mental health, philosophy and education. We wanted to empower conversations and, over the last year, shared 31 original articles from students, educators, psychiatrists, psychologists, and leading national and international scholars in the fields of mental health, philosophy and education.
We began with an online launch. where Professor Paul Standish and Dr Rob Grant set out a compelling case for thoughtful conversations in mental health, philosophy and education. Is education a solution, a source of therapy, for young people in distress? Can philosophy help us to face the discomfort, uncertainty and complexity of human difficulty and distress? In medicalising suffering, are we inadvertently occluding something important, indeed essential, about the nature of human being? These were just some of the question with which we ventured into our first year.
Is education a solution, a source of therapy, for young people in distress? Can philosophy help us to face the discomfort, uncertainty and complexity of human difficulty and distress? In medicalising suffering, are we inadvertently occluding something important, indeed essential, about the nature of human being? These were just some of the question with which we ventured into our first year.
The role of educators and schools in nurturing and supporting mental health was a recurring topic throughout the year. Dr Adiran Skilbeck wrote about the role of teachers in helping young to find the words that express their reality. For Skilbeck, effective mental health education takes place in the balance and interplay between the 'distance' of wellbeing tips and strategies and the 'intimacy' of the words that express our realities and the realities of others. In her piece entitled The Stories we Tell Ourselves, Dr Alison Brady thoughtfully considered how might we reconceptualise ‘disordered thinking’ in education. She suggests that, by introducing narratives (e.g. in literature) that embrace inconsistency, we might reposition distress, not as a problem to be solved, but as "part of our ongoing pursuit to (re)construct ourselves? Dr Paul Giladi suggests, in his article on 'the Broken Pipeline' that it is hardly surprising that students today are struggling with their mental health. He points to aggressive social media gazes, a punitive labour market, structural racism and inequality, gutted public services, and the undermining of democratic institutions, as just some of the factors contributing to the inevitability "that student mental health, especially the mental health of minority students, is distressingly low." For Giladi, it is in unlearning coloniality that student well-being can start to significantly improve.
We interviewed School Well-being Co-ordinator, Susan Andrews who told us about young people's fundaamental need for connection and acceptance, while Clinical Psychologist Dr Cian Aherne shared insights from his clinical practice with young people in distress. Such was the interest in the latter interview that we invited Dr Aherne back for a three part series on the Power Threat Meaning Framework - a framework that supports people to make sense of, and move through, a period of distress in a way that sidesteps the deep grooves of diagnosis and pathologisation. In an interview with Dr Áine Mahon, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Sam Ponnuthurai spoke about how philosophy and psychotherapy inform his clinical practice.
In December we shared two posts that brought into question how we understand and name human distress. Dr Richard Gipps thoughtfully explored how we might understand psychosis and delusion. while Justin Garson eloquently laid out the functions and limitations of psychiatric diagnoses. Delusions too featured in Dr Rosa Ritunnano'swonderful article in which she writes about how phenomenology allows us to pay particular attention to the subjective experience of delusions that are all too often glossed by mainstream psychiatry. Such attention, for Ritunnano, is not only ethically responsive but clinically important in helping alleviate someone's distress. The gendered nature of pathology and distress was highlighted by Dr Lucienne Spencer who suggested that we need to pay particular attention to gender differences in mental health research.
We shared our own work including the release of Emma's new book and articles by Áine on social media and academia, the harried precariat and Emma on mental health narratives in education and the difference between psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy. It was in response to Áine's piece on 'the carefully curated online self' in academia that Dr Seán Henry penned his wonderful piece on inclination, laughter and digital encounters. He suggested that, in spite of its limitations, Academic Twitter has the potential to displace masculinist framings of academic life by exposing new modes of connection between academics, students, and the wider public. This wasn't enough, however, to persuade Áine to return to twitter!
The nature of loneliness and suffering was explored by a number of scholars. Dr Ian James Kidd wrote beautifully about the complexity of loneliness while the wonderful Dr Lucy Osler considered loneliness in a digital age. Dr Silvia Caprioglio Panizza shared rich descriptions of OCD and the exactitude of suffering , and in doing so, evoked a wonderfully tender but powerful balance between personal and scholarly insight. Many readers found Dr Caprioglio Panizza's pieces especially moving.
The COVID-19 Pandemic featured a number of times throughout the year. Doctoral student Eleanor Byrne wrote about the power affective scaffolding in times of upheaval while Amelia McConville recently wrote about how the pandemic so profoundly shaped her PhD experience. Orlaith Darling too shared her perspective as a doctoral researcher, focusing in particular on mental health in academia. We were also thrilled to share a delightfully thoughtful piece from first year undergraduate student Hannah Earner-Grote on how Lyra and her daemon, chief characters in Phillip Pullman's fantasy epic Northern Lights, act as effective metaphors for how we talk to ourselves. The book's message, according to Earner-Grote, is "don’t let the punishing Institutions take your friend from you. Be a companion to yourself, a kind one, a kinder one than you have been in the past".
As we pause for a summer break, it is a joy to look back at the conversations, interviews and insights that we have shared over the last year. We want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to write for, or be interviewed by, us. We thank all those who got in touch to share how they enjoy the articles, how a certain post was particularly thought-provoking, or how they use the posts as supplementary material in their own teaching and classrooms. We'd like to recognise and extend our gratitude to the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain without whose financial support thinkful.ie would not exist. We will be taking a break over the summer for some rest and essential maintenance but will be back in the autumn with a new and improved website and two exciting new collaborations. Until then we wish everyone a restful summer.