From Institutional Racism and Transcultural Psychiatry to Decolonisation

Honorary Professor Emeritus Suman Fernando led an event discussing his work around mental health and wellbeing.

Date: 6 December 2022

The Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre hosted Honorary Emeritus Professor Suman Fernando for a hybrid event, discussing conceptualisations of mental health and illness, racism and discrimination in mental health services, and the future of psychiatry.

Suman Fernando has advocated and written extensively on reforming the current approach to mental health and wellbeing. He is a retired consultant psychiatrist, active writer and campaigner struggling against racism in the mental healthcare system. Suman was formerly at the European Centre for Mental Health and Social Care at University of Kent and a consultant to the Sri Lanka section of Trauma and Global (Mental) Health Project between 2003 and 2007. He has authored several books, including Institutional Racism in Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, Race matters in mental health, Mental Health Race and Culture, and Mental Health Worldwide. 

The event took place on Thursday 3 November, both in the Graduate Centre at Holloway Campus, and online via the virtual learning platform Collaborate. In the seminar, Fernando spoke about his personal journey as a clinician and an activist within the field of psychiatry and mental health. He discussed historical and racial dimensions of mental health, madness and its treatment. The audience asked questions about Fernando's own experiences as a Black man working within institutionally racist health services. 

Fernando discussed the future of our psychiatric services, and described them as ‘beyond repair’, concluding that there is need for transformative change into how we deliver mental healthcare in the country. Fernando explained how this must include a process of decolonialisation, a shift from Eurocentric psychology to a pluralist and diversity approach, acknowledging the damaging effect of colonialism on our conceptualisations of mental health and illness, as well as the diverse explanatory models of mental health that exists across the globe. 

The hybrid model of delivering a seminar worked well and accommodated a wide range of audiences from across the world - from London, other parts of the UK, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States, amongst other locations. This reflects the important and seminal work of Suman and the impact his work has had on healthcare professionals, academics, writers and others across the world. The hybrid model allowed both attendees on campus and attendees online to engage with the speaker, to ask questions and comment throughout the seminar. 

A recording of the event is available on the London Met Research YouTube Channel