Remember the value of our older community members

By Christine Stephens, May 2020

I was somewhat alarmed to find myself, as a 70-year-old, suddenly categorised as a member of a particularly vulnerable group. This is a group of people based only on the number of years that they have lived who have been singled out as needing to be extra careful and isolated earlier than others during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, this is for the protection of our health and signals society’s concern and protection of members of the population who are clearly more at risk.

As we age, we are more likely to suffer the underlying health issues which also make people more vulnerable to this virus. Unfortunately, using such a crude indicator of vulnerability as age alone has its downside. Categorising people in this way feeds into prejudice against older people and a deficit view of ageing that is already circulating in our society. Such ageist attitudes depict people in terms of their age alone and obscure the huge diversity that actually exists among older people.

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Responding to a pandemic: What can we learn from African scholars?

By Tracy Morison, May 2020

African countries’ responses to the COVID19 pandemic are complicated by an array of economic and health challenges, introduced and entrenched by neo/colonialism and neoliberal economics. Yet, at the same time, the histories and present realities of these settings mean that African scholars have a different perspective on how to respond to the pandemic than those in more privileged settings. In this piece, I reflect on two important lessons that can be learned from African responses.

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The story of COVID-19, by the numbers

By Mark Davis, May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic was announced on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organization, marking a turning point for the public health systems serving the health of constituent populations across the globe. This declaration moment is important for narrative on COVID-19 because it is the point at which it is accepted that the virus is not only travelling to different countries, but is now circulating in those countries. Governments are now required to take action to moderate the impact of the infection, reducing harm for the polity until the virus – through the mutation of its biological properties, human immunity, vaccines or some combination of these – takes its place, we hope, among the many other microbes with which human life has found co-existence.

The WHO declaration is also an important moment for the COVID-19 story because it reveals how data about notifications of diagnosed infection and deaths are used to make decisions and therefore reveals how, in the circumstances of a pandemic, it is keenly apparent that numerical and narrative futures constitute each other.

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Top tips for ensuring institutional health during the lock-down & beyond

By Sarah Proctor- Thompson, April 2020

Over the last few weeks I have been caught, suspended, and at times paralysed, between the two stark realisations that: I am incredibly privileged to be able to continue the work of teaching and research online as we go into full lock down. After all, I will be paid my full salary, I have the right technological set-up at home and I can continue to undertake meaningful work that I am passionate about.

But that also: I am absolutely struggling to continue the work of teaching and research online. My already full pre-lockdown workload has not diminished. Indeed it has increased through ever-changing institutional mandates, crisis response meetings, learning of new digital tools and increasing my support for struggling students and colleagues.

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Competition and space in Academe

by Andrea La Marre, March 2020

On many grant applications, there is space to describe “career interruptions” to help explain larger gaps on one’s CV. This is a space usually reserved for parental leaves, medical leaves, or other such generally government-documented reasons why an academic might have less to show for a particular amount of time in their career. I wonder about this space, and what else might occupy it. I wonder about the framing of life as “interrupting” work, and the implications of the need to constantly prove that we have been productive enough by way of ink on a page indicating that we’ve researched and written and had our words accepted by a high-enough tiered journal.

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“In all honesty I am still feeling a little vulnerable”: A conversation worth sharing

Kristi Urry & Kathryn McGuigan, January 2020

Kristi Urry (University of Adelaide) and Kathryn McGuigan (Massey University) reflect on contributing to the Illness Snapshots Symposium at ISCHP 2019

Image from Kathryn’s photo essay ‘Scared to eat’

Ahead of the recent ISCHP conference in Bratislava, Kerry Chamberlain put out a call for contributions to a Snapshots symposium. His challenge, as usual, was for presenters to forgo the traditional 15-minute talk and, instead, present short, sharp and interesting arts-based presentations on issues of health and illness. We both took on this challenge, using it as an opportunity to reflect on and share important personal stories beyond the usual confines of presenting our research as polished, neatly defined scholars. The symposium went well, inspiring a lot of questions and discussion. Contributing to this symposium was also emotionally challenging and, afterwards, we both checked in with each other and reflected on how we felt after our presentations. We came to recognise this conversation, which we continued via email after the conference closed, as both a deeply caring act and a reflexive practice. We felt that it was a conversation worth sharing.

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Pro-social purpose & serving wider society: Research & practice to address climate change

By Kiran K Bains, November 2019

Greta Thunberg recently tweeted:

Climate change and social isolation and loneliness pose serious threats to human health, and particularly in the case of the former, to our survival and that of our planet. These issues are an ever-present and growing reality for those who already experience greater vulnerability and marginalisation due to age, poverty, racial inequality, sexuality, gender identity and disability [1, 2]. However, for those with greater privilege in the West, climate change in particular may generally be an abstract reality, with adverse consequences for lived experience only just beginning to be felt.

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Left alone in a storm of stress

By Natalia Braun, September 2019

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

Alexander Den Heijer

We are living in an age of stress. The very word ‘stress’ has become an everyday, unavoidable companion. In recent decades, our “stress (or allostatic) loads” have risen starkly. Today’s individuals increasingly suffer from what military has called VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.1 We struggle with non-stop changes and transformations without regaining equilibrium, maintaining pathological stress levels.

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Period power? Ideas for intervening in menstrual poverty

By Tracy Morison & Sheralee Wootton, August 2019

Recently we observed Menstrual Hygiene Day, an annual awareness day on 28th May initiated in 2014 by the German-based NGO WASH United to shine a light on menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Specifically, this day seeks to publicise ‘period poverty’: the lack of access to adequate menstrual products faced by many in low income countries and, it is becoming increasingly apparent, by poorer women1 in rich countries. The movement’s vision is:

“…to create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period”.

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On becoming a feckless wastrel

By Wendy Stainton Rogers, June 2019

As a critical health psychologist, I have been haunted by the image of the feckless wastrel – my name for the character created by neoliberal forces to justify treating particular people as incompetent, unworthy and undeserving.

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The Centre for Critical Psychology (CC-Psy) at Aberystwyth, UK

We’re looking for allies. We need allies… there are lots of people who’ve had enough and are thinking, feeling, and working in similar directions: it’s not a question of fashion but of a deeper “spirit of the age” informing converging projects in a wide range of fields (Deleuze 1995, 22)[1].


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Research-Informed Social Enterprises with South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda: A Partnership Project

By Helen Liebling, Hazel Barrett and Pascal Niyonkuru – May, 2019

Health Centre 4 in Bidi Bidi.

Helen Liebling, Hazel Barrett and Pascal Niyonkuru’s work demonstrates how the impact of qualitative research can be maximised to effect real changes in the lives of marginalised people. The researchers report on how they used their participatory research on the experiences of South Sudanese refugees to start social enterprises for the purposes of empowerment and capacity building. Their hope is that their intervention will serve as a model that other refugees could benefit from.

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Career file: Catriona Macleod

Catriona Macleod
is an ISCHP international representative from South Africa. She works at Rhodes University where she holds the positions of Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction (CSSR) research programme. She is a leader in feminist health psychology and has made significant been in two main areas: sexual and reproductive health and feminist theory in Psychology.

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Context is best: Breast versus bottle is NOT the debate

By Eva Neely, April 2019

Bottle vs breast – the ‘milk wars’ are missing the point

Sparked by the release of yet another parenting book, I recently found myself on the social media sidelines of yet another heated breast versus bottle dispute. At the heart of the breastfeeding/bottle-feeding debate lies the desire to determine the right way to infant feed. Yet, as we know, when it comes to childrearing there is no universal ‘right’ way. These ‘milk wars’ simply distract us from addressing what actually matters.

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Career File: Christine Stephens

Chris is one of the founding ISCHP members. She is currently Treasurer and has also been Chair. Currently, she is a Professor in the School of Psychology at Massey University in New Zealand–considered the cradle of critical health psychology. She co-leads the Health and Ageing Research Team, who has been conducting a longitudinal study of ageing, following older New Zealanders and their quality of life since 2006. In this Career File, Chris shares how she got to be where she is today.

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