The Psychiatric Gaze Unit
- Appreciate the negative impact of power imbalances and distance in the mental health system between those who provide and those who use services
- Understand the damage that can be done in the practitioner-patient relationship when patients are understood through their diagnoses rather than their skills and life experience
- Recognize the potential of an egalitarian patient-practitioner relationship
The component for this unit is a sculpture created by two community experts to depict how they see the patient situated in the practice of psychiatry. An additional component is an artists’ statement written by the two community experts who made the sculpture.
Evaluating the Components
All of our community partners described oppressive experiences accessing mental health services. Creator Alistair Scott-Turner, is a psychiatric patient with a host of diagnoses ranging from “angst” to schizo-affective disorder and many, many things between. Co-creator Dana Allan has a long-standing eating disorder with body dysmorphia, anxiety and depression. In her words “Just your basic crazy anorexic.” As community experts on our project, they wanted to make a sculpture that expressed their belief that mental health professionals could not see the whole people that live behind (and in spite of) the diagnostic labels that are placed on them. This makes their sculpture activist art or an art intervention, in reference to art that is placed outside the art world to raise awareness and try to change existing conditions.
Allan and Scott-Turner’s sculpture puts the viewer in the place of a person treated poorly in mental health institutions and says, this could be you. The accompanying artists’ statement explains the ideas behind the sculpture’s creation. Instructors can use these components to explore possible avenues toward egalitarian patient-practitioner relationships.