Critical Mental Health Resources

The field of mental health is far from unified in its basic assumptions and practices. Patients, ex-patients, professionals, and academics have formed various international critical coalitions drawing attention to misinformation and the potential for harm. The critical analysis also draws attention to non-psychiatric approaches to the promotion of human well-being.

The UWSA Vice-President Student Affairs, Reza Saker Hossain, and Community Director, Sarah Anderson, began a conversation with UofW Faculty of Education Associate Professor Dr. Jan DeFehr to help provide articles and chapters regarding Critical Mental Health to students.

The UWSA is providing this platform to allow students to access critical knowledge in the mental health field. Access to both conventional and critical mental health knowledge is necessary so that students can make informed choices as they navigate mental health services. The perspectives presented in both conventional and critical mental health scholarship should not be assumed to be opinions of the UWSA.

Thank you to Dr. Jan DeFehr for providing us with a list of critical mental health articles and chapters. The UWSA supports students’ rights to access both conventional and critical mental health knowledge. Open access to relevant knowledge allows students to weigh potential benefits against potential risks.

Keep in mind that this reading list is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Please arrange to meet with your healthcare provider to address individual health questions and concerns. For other mental health resources, please check out our page here:

The following list of peer-reviewed articles addresses questions such as the following:

  • How and why is the paradigm changing in the field of mental health?
  • What are some alternatives to the diagnose-and-treat pattern dominating mainstream mental health services?
  • What is the level of evidence that mental illnesses are just like other illnesses such as cancer and diabetes?
  • How are mental disorders (same meaning as mental illnesses) diagnosed? Is diagnosis based on lab tests, biochemistry, brain imaging, or genetic data? Is there a test for chemical imbalance?
  • Which Canadian professionals are authorized to diagnose mental disorders, and which are not?
  • Is my informed consent required for the diagnosis of a mental disorder during an appointment?
  • How long does a mental disorder diagnosis remain in my medical records?
  • I know that a diagnosis of a mental disorder may open doors to various accommodations, but can a diagnosis of a mental disorder be used against me? At what kinds of junctures can this happen throughout the lifespan?
  • What are psychiatric drugs, and how do they work in bodies?
  • What should I know about tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal before I consider using a prescribed psychiatric drug?
  • What concerns and alternatives are articulated in the anti-colonial and anti-capitalist critiques of mental health systems?

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th Edition). American Psychiatric Association. 

  • This resource is significant because all mental disorder diagnoses are listed in this book. Check out the pink boxes for complete diagnostic criteria. Notice that diagnostic criteria is about difficult feelings and behaviours, and is sometimes about perceptions, desires, beliefs. No tests involving tissues or fluids are required for diagnosis.

DeFehr, J. N. (2020). “Voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently”: Protecting informed consent in school-based mental health referrals. Brock Education Journal, 29(1), 6-23.

  • This article provides one overview of relevant critical knowledge and argues that, according to professional ethics, students have the right to access relevant critique, and professionals are responsible for providing timely access.

DeFehr, J. N. (2022). Going public: A clinic’s call for full disclosure of critical mental health knowledge. In J. N. Lester & M. O’Reilly (Eds.), The Palgrave encyclopedia of critical perspectives on mental health (pp. 1-17). Palgrave Macmillan.

  • This chapter describes the process and outcomes of an action research project set in a Manitoba community health clinic. The project explored whether, and how, the clinic would facilitate client access to key relevant concerns discussed in critical mental health scholarship.

Ashley, F. (2019). The misuse of gender dysphoria: Toward greater conceptual clarity in transgender health. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16(6) 1159-1164.

  • Psychiatry pathologizes some differences; this article argues for the depathologization of transgender people.

Richardson, C. K.; Aviles-Betel, K., Ismail-Allouche, Z., & Picard, V. (2021). Healing and rebalancing in the aftermath of colonial violence: An Indigenous-Informed, Response-Based Approach. Genealogy, 5(69), 1-9.

  • This article and the two that follow, articulate differences between mental health assumptions and practices and Indigenous approaches to wellbeing.

Carriere, J. & Richardson, C. (2013). Relationship is everything: Holistic approaches to Aboriginal child and youth mental health. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 7(2), 8-26.

  • As its abstract indicates, this article addresses topics related to Indigenous holistic well-being, addressing the question, “what is holistic mental health for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and youth?”

Hart, M. (1999). Seeking mino-pimatisiwin (the good life): An Aboriginal approach to social work practice. Native Social Work Journal, 2(1), 91-112. 

  • Mental health premises and practices are Euro-American in origin. This article articulates an Indigenous approach to mino-pimatisiwin.

Kottai, S. R. (2020). Migrant workers and the politics of mental health. Economic & Political Weekly, LV(30), 39-45. 

  • This article shows how mental health practices and assumptions can obscure oppressive conditions produced by white supremacy, borders, and racial capitalism.

Oliphant, V. N., Broyles, D., Clement, D. N., Wingate, L. R. (2022). Mental health strategies informed by black feminist thought. Open Cultural Studies, 6137-146.

  • Drawing on the work of The Crunk Feminist Collective along with scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Kimberle Crenshaw, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange and many others, this article articulates mental health strategies informed by Black feminist thought and grassroots activism.

Mills, C. & Fernando, S. (2014). Globalising mental health or pathologizing the global south? Mapping the ethics, theory and practice of global mental health. Disability and the Global South, 1(2), 188-202. 

  • This article critiques and resists the global roll-out of Euro-American mental health assumptions and practices.

Moncrieff, J., Cohen, D., & Porter, S. (2013). The psychoactive effects of psychiatric medications: The elephant in the room. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 45(5), 409-415. 

  • This is one of Dr Moncrieff’s earlier articles outlining key concerns with psychiatric drugs. Critical scholarship adopts an informed choice approach (neither anti or pro drug) but offers cautions regarding common misunderstandings and potential for harm.

Moncrieff, J. (2018). Research on a ‘drug-centred’ approach to psychiatric drug treatment: Assessing the impact of mental and behavioural alterations produced by psychiatric drugs. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 27, 133-140. Cambridge University Press.

  • This article identifies and corrects common misunderstandings about psychiatric drugs.

Moncrieff, J., Cooper, R. E., Stockmann, T., Amendola, S., Hengartner, M. P. & Horowitz, M. A. (2022). The serotonin theory of depression: A systematic umbrella review of the evidence. Molecular Psychiatry, 1-14.

  • This article challenges one of the most pervasive understandings of depression and offers alternative perspectives.

Read, J. (2020). How common and severe are six withdrawal effects from, and addiction to, antidepressants? The experiences of a large international sample of patients. Addictive Behaviors, 102, 1-8.

  • This article provides a good introduction to issues related to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal from psychiatric drugs—the example in this particular study is antidepressants.
University of Winnipeg
University of Winnipeg
University of Winnipeg