Psycho-emotional disablism in the lives of people experiencing mental distress (paper, 2011)

Reeve, D. (2011) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism in the lives of people experiencing mental distress’, paper presented at Disability or Distress symposium, Lancaster University, 15-16 November.


This paper will explore what the concept of psycho-emotional disablism can bring to discussions about the relevance (or not) that the social model of disability has for those people who experience mental distress. Questions to be considered will include:

  • Does the recognition of disablism in both its structural and psycho-emotional forms make the traditional ‘social model of disability’ more relevant to people experiencing mental distress?
  • How does psycho-emotional disablism help understandings of the impact of prejudice and hate crime, both of which have higher rates of occurrence for people experiencing mental distress than other groups of disabled people?
  • How might psycho-emotional disablism intertwine with experiences of mental distress?
  • What relevance might this have for debates to date about psycho-emotional disablism and impairment/impairment effects more generally within disability studies?

This work-in-progress will show the potential benefits to be gained by using a more nuanced definition of disablism which explicitly includes forms of oppression that operate at both the public and private level. This discussion will also contribute to ongoing theoretical debates about the complex and blurred relationship(s) between disablism and impairment within disability studies which are exemplified by the experiences of people living with mental distress.


This seminar paper was developed into Reeve, D. (2015) ‘Psycho-emotional disablism in the lives of people experiencing mental distress’, in H. Spandler, J. Anderson and B. Sapey (eds) Madness, Distress and the Politics of Disablement, Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 99-112.