Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lisa Cosgrove

Second Advisor

China Mills

Third Advisor

Laura Hayden


The Movement for Global Mental Health (MGMH) has been met with criticism for reifying Western conceptions of mental disorders and diverting resources from the investigation, intervention, and education regarding the social determinants of mental health. Advocates identifying as a person with a psychosocial disability are organizing to transform the MGMH from a top-down, individualized, and universal approach toward a rights-based conception that accounts for the cultural, political, and economic conditions that produce distress and disability. Using a qualitative, hermeneutic, interpretative-phenomenological analysis (IPA), this research study focused on how people with a lived experience of mental distress and treatment come to question the mainstream discourses of the psy-disciplines, identify as people with psychosocial disabilities, and engage in advocacy both within and against the MGMH. The results contribute to debates on how to conceptualize madness/distress, reveal the emergence of the psychosocial disability identity as a major force in mental health advocacy. and point to the transformative potential of an integrated psychosocial disability framework for a more rights-based approach. Recommendations are made for mental health researchers, practitioners, and activists to promote and enhance the inclusion of people with lived experience.