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Examining Neoliberalism and Mental Health Strategy- A Discursive Analysis of a UK Department of Health Document

Kennett, Jack (2017) Examining Neoliberalism and Mental Health Strategy- A Discursive Analysis of a UK Department of Health Document. Manchester Metropolitan University. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Mental health has become a growing priority for the government of the UK over the past few decades and during the same period, the economic and social goals of the government have become increasingly neoliberally focused. The present study combines analysis of both neoliberalism and mental healthcare in examining a UK Government mental health strategy document. The present discourse analysis furthers the work of Tegtsoonian (2009) in examining how government produced literature can exhibit the rise of contemporary post-liberal agendas in political systems.The present study uses an epistemological position derived from the work of Fairclough (1995, 2010), Laclau and Mouffe (1985) and Foucault (1972). In doing so, it uses a unique methodology to analyse ‘Closing the gap: priorities for essential change in mental health’ (Department of Health, 2014), a document produced by the Department of Health for outlining Government strategy for mental healthcare in the UK.The analysis uncovers a clear neoliberal agenda throughout the document. Replicating the findings of Tegtsoonian (2009), the analysis evidenced the document’s continuous attempts to align public interests with that of the government through various methods. Defining illness with the aim of inducting the public into the role of the consumer, prioritising functionality over wellbeing, and the adoptions of specific ways of conceptualising mental health are all identified as technologies of power. The concept of shifting between different paradigms of mental illness is uniquely explored in the way that it is used within the text to advance free market capitalist aims and goals.

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