5E mental health: putting brain, body and world together again


17 May 2024


ISPUP auditorium



On May 17th, at 2:00 pm, Nikolas Rose will present a seminar entitled: “5E mental health: putting brain, body and world together again”.


Is the hegemony of ‘biomedical psychiatry’ beginning to crumble? In this paper I suggest that a new style of thought is emerging in debates around psychiatry and mental health, which I term ‘5E Mental Health.’ This goes beyond the well-known and much criticised ‘biopsychosocial’ approach, and entails a fundamental challenge to the deeply socially embedded ‘psychiatric complex.’ It is mapping biosocial mechanisms through which ‘social determinants’ give rise to the ailments that have become the province of clinical psychiatry. Those ailments are: embodied: brought forth not just by the brain but by the whole organism; extended: realized by the organism in interaction with the material and interpersonal environment; emplaced: always shaped in relation to a specific milieu and what it affords or disaffords; experienced: made meaningful by and to the individual (and to others) in language, meaning, memory, salience; and enacted: not just passively received but shaping an active agentive way of being, a form of life. These are the tractable pathways through which adverse social experiences give rise to those ailments conventionally diagnosed and treated in individual clinical encounters. It is possible and plausible to enact small scale local changes in forms of life that can act on these pathways. This requires mental health professionals to work collaboratively with architects, planners, local and national policy makers and crucially, with those who have experience of mental distress and psychiatric services. It thus requires a paradigm shift in the work of psychiatrists, mental health professionals and policy makers that is as radical and fundamental as that entailed in the closure of the asylums.

Short Bio

Nikolas Rose FBA, FAcSS, FRSA is distinguished Honorary Professor in the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University and Honorary Professor in the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London. He was was Professor of Sociology and Founding Head of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Kings College London, and was co-Founder and Co-Director of King’s ESRC Centre for Society and Mental Health until his retirement in April 2021.

Before joining King’s in 2012, he was Martin White Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Head of the Department of Sociology from 2002 to 2006, and Director of the LSE’s BIOS Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society, which he founded in 2003. He has worked with many international projects on emerging biotechnologies, including the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), the European Union’s Human Brain Project and several large research council funded collaborations on synthetic biology.He is Chair of the Neuroscience and Society Network (previously funded by the European Science Foundation) and has worked with the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the Academy of Medical Science, the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society.

He is founder and co-editor of BioSocieties: an interdisciplinary journal for social studies of the life sciences, and has worked closely with the journal Economy and Society for many years. His most recent books include The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century (Princeton, 2006), Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind (with Joelle Abi-Rached, Princeton, 2013) and The Urban Brain: Mental Health in the Vital City (with Des Fitzgerald, Princeton 2022). His forthcoming book Questioning Humanity: Being Human in a Posthuman age, with Thomas Osborne, will be published in 2024.