Helena Hansen - Combatting Structural Racism and Classism in Psychiatry
10.13.2021 - By Mad in America: Rethinking Mental Health
Helena Hanson is professor and chair of translational social science and health equity and associate director for the center for social medicine at UCLA. As a psychiatrist and anthropologist, she has spent much of her career researching how race, class, gender, and social determinants of health affect psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Growing up in 1970's Oakland and Berkeley, California, Hansen witnessed the consequences of deinstitutionalization and mass incarceration policies firsthand. Losing family members to both the prison and mental health systems gave her a personal understanding of the social and structural failures she interrogates in her work today. She also draws on the principles she learned as a participant in AIDS-related activism to mobilize community organizations and champion mutual aid groups in combatting our current mental health crises. In this interview, Hansen discusses how race and class affect psychiatric diagnoses and subsequent treatment, the moral implications of psychiatric diagnosis, structural competency, and more.