Prof. Helen Spandler

Professor of Mental Health Studies

School of Social Work, Care and Community

Harrington Building, HA225

+44 (0) 1772 89 3416

Subject Areas: Mental Health; Health and Social Care; Social Work, Social Policy and Community Care; Mad Studies; History of Psychiatry

Helen is a Professor in Mental Health in the School of Social Work and an Associate of the Psychosocial Research Unit (PRU) at UCLan. She is primarily a qualitative researcher in mental health, critical social theory and policy. She is currently the Principal Investigator on two Wellcome Trust funded projects: Crafting Psychiatric Contention: Asylum: the magazine for democratic psychiatry (1986-2016) and 'Hidden from history?: the psychiatric treatment of lesbian, bisexual and gender non-conforming women (1952-1990').

Full Profile

Helen joined the School of Social Work as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in May 2004. She has completed a number of national and regional research projects, primarily in the field of mental health. She is interested in using reflexive and critical research methods to understand mental health practices, histories, policies and politics. She is the author of numerous books and articles in the field including 'Who's Hurting Who?' (1996); 'Asylum to Action: Paddington Day Hospital, Therapeutic Communities and Beyond' (2006); 'Beyond Fear and Control: working with young people who self-harm' (2007) and 'Distress or Disability?: Mental Health and the Politics of Disablement' (2015).  She is the Managing Editor of Asylum: the magazine for democratic psychiatry.

Helen was lead author of an article co-authored with Mick McKeown ‘Exploring the case for truth and reconciliation in mental health services’ published in the Mental Health Review Journal and in July 2018 this was selected as an Outstanding Paper in the 2018 Emerald Literati Awards.  The panel said it was chosen as a winner as it is one of the most exceptional pieces of work the team has seen throughout 2017.

Current research Interests:

  • Post war histories of psychiatry and the psychiatric survivor movement
  • The development of Mad Studies
  • Social Movements, political activism and social change
  • Grassroots truth and reconciliation initiatives
  • Sport, gender and mental health;
  • Therapeutic communities and non-medicalised crisis alternatives;
  • Art, creativity and psychiatric contention


  • PhD (Manchester Metropolitan University) Discourse Unit, Department of Psychology and Speech Pathology (2002).
  • MA (Sheffield) Psychiatry, Philosophy and Society (1994).
  • BA (Hons) (East London) By Independent Study (1992).
  • Post Grad Cert (UCLan) Research Student Supervision (2007)
  • Manchester Course in Group Psychotherapy (Institute of Group Analysis) (1997)



Selected Publications (peer reviewed)

Spandler, Helen  and Poursanidou, Dina (2019) Who is included in the Mad Studies Project? The Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, 10 . ISSN 1916-2405

Woods, A, Hart, A and Spandler, Helen (2019) The Recovery Narrative: Politics and possibilities of a genre. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. ISSN 0165-005X

Carr, Sarah and Spandler, Helen (2019) Hidden from history? A brief modern history of the psychiatric “treatment” of lesbian and bisexual women in England. The Lancet Psychiatry . ISSN 2215-0366

Spandler, Helen and Allen, Meg (2017) Contesting the psychiatric framing of ME / CFS. Social Theory and Health . ISSN 1477-8211

Mckeown, Michael and Spandler, Helen (2017) Exploring the Case for Truth and Reconciliation in Mental Health Services. Mental Health Review Journal, 22 (2). pp. 83-94. ISSN 1361-9322

Cresswell, Mark and Spandler, Helen (2016) Solidarities and Tensions in Mental Health Politics: Mad Studies and Psychopolitics. Critical and Radical Social Work. ISSN 2049 8608

Spandler, Helen, Roy, Alastair Neil and Mckeown, Michael (2014) Using football metaphor to engage men in therapeutic support. Journal of Social Work Practice, 28 (2). pp. 229-245. ISSN 0265-0533

More publications

Recent Research Projects

2017-18: 'Hidden from history?: the psychiatric treatment of lesbian, bisexual and gender non-conforming women (1952-1990') Welcome Trust Seed Award in Humanities and Social Science (with Sarah Carr)

2017: Crafting Psychiatric Contention: Asylum: the magazine for democratic psychiatry (1986-2016). Research Bursary Award.

2013-2015 Landscapes of Helping: exploring informal support. Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (with red Consultancy)

2013-2015 Mutual Recovery and creative practice. Funded by AHRC Connected Communities. (with Prof Paul Crawford, Nottingham University and Dr. Lydia Lewis, Wolverhampton University)

2010-2012 Evaluation of the 'It’s a Goal!' Programme. Funded by North West Mental Health Improvement Programme

2008-13 Evaluation of Self Directed Support Pilot Sites in Scotland: Funded by the Scottish Government (with Dr. Julie Ridley, UCLan)

Teaching Activities and Responsibilities

Helen is one of the School’s Research Degrees Tutors & co-hosts the regular Research Student Workshops.  She has successfully supervised 6 PhDs to completion at UCLan and is currently supervising 5 doctoral students (in mental health, disability studies and creative writing).

Helen has externally examined approx 30 PhDs and ClinPsyDs in the UK, Australia and Canada.


External Activities

Managing editor of ASYLUM: the radical mental health magazine

Editorial Boards
  • Co-editor of the Radical Pioneers section of Critical Radical Social Work.
  • Editorial board of the Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities.
  • Panel assessor for the Journal of Social Work Practice and the Annual Review of Critical Psychology.

Helen has reviewed large research project bids for research councils both in the UK (e.g. ESRC and NIHR) and abroad (including Hong Kong, Canada and Ireland).

Reviewed book proposals for Psychology Press; Routledge Press; and Palgrave.

Peer reviewed articles for various journals including: Health and Place; Mental Health Review; Chronic Illness; Journal of Adult Protection; Social Movement Studies; Journal of Mental Health; Journal of Social Work Practice; Subjectivity; Men and Masculinities; Sociology of Health and Illness; etc.