Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Alison Howell -- The Politics of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Health Policy in the Canadian and US Militaries

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

"The Politics of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Health Policy in the Canadian and US Militaries," with Alison Howell, SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, Politics, University of Manchester.

In recent years, a growing number of soldiers serving in Western militaries have been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This talk will explore the politics of such diagnoses, and of increasing efforts by militaries to both prevent and treat the disorder so as to return soldiers to duty. Focusing mainly on the Canadian case, the paper explores how the diagnosis of PTSD amongst soldiers at times politicizes the use of military force by calling attention to vulnerabilities and insecurity produced through war. Yet at other times it reduces ethical questions concerning war to technical, medical, and individual ‘problems’ that can be resolved through therapeutic interventions aimed at helping soldiers manage the effects of their memories of war.

Alison Howell is a SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow in Politics at the University of Manchester, UK. Her research examines the role of mental health policies and programs in global politics. She is interested in how psychiatry and psychology have become tools of security and governance in a broad range of sites in international relations, including spaces of detention such as Guantánamo, in conflict and post-conflict situations, and in Western militaries. She is the author of a forthcoming book with Routledge on the Global Governance of Mental Health. 

Location: McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.