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Read Ursula

Anthropologist, Postdoctoral research fellow

Contact: ursula.read(at)inserm.fr




I hold a PhD in anthropology from University College London, UK. My research interests are in the social and subjective experience of mental illness, in particular ‘severe mental illness’ such as psychosis, and the ways in which global mental health interventions become constructed and translated into practices on the ground. My interest in transcultural psychiatry and the anthropology of mental health arose from my experience as an occupational therapist working with patients from diverse social and cultural backgrounds in mental health services in London UK. I subsequently gained a doctoral fellowship from the UK Economic and Social Research Council to conduct an ethnographic study of the impact of severe mental illness on family life in Ghana, including experiences of psychiatric treatment and traditional and faith healing. I have since completed qualitative research with young adults from diverse ethnic backgrounds in London as part of a longitudinal social epidemiological study of ethnic differences in health and wellbeing funded by the UK Medical Research Council. My research responds to longstanding debates around cultural influences on recovery from mental illness and the recent expansion of global mental health initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. I explore these issues through examining the day to day experiences of people with mental illness and family members providing care, as well as the practices of health workers, NGOs and traditional and faith healers. In considering such questions in the context of sub-Saharan Africa and among ethnic minorities of African heritage in Europe I am interested in the legacies of colonialism and migration, and the intersection of historical, social and structural factors with the experience of mental illness and its treatment, including health systems and resources, international health policy and donor activities, poverty and inequality, and racism and discrimination. For my current research I am investigating the introduction of rights-based approaches to mental health care in Ghana as part of the European Research Council funded Global Health project at CERMES3.

Selected publications

Read UM 2013. ‘No matter how the child is, she is hers’: Practical kinship in the care of mental illness in Kintampo, Ghana Ghana Studies 15/16:103-133.

Read UM 2012. “I want the one that will heal me completely so it won’t come back again”: The limits of antipsychotic medication in rural Ghana Transcultural Psychiatry 49(3-4):438-460 doi: 10.1177/1363461512447070

Read UM, Adiibokah, E and Nyame S 2009. Local suffering and the global discourse of mental health and human rights: An ethnographic study of responses to mental illness in rural Ghana Globalization and Health 5:13doi:10.1186/1744-8603-5-13

Read UM, Doku, VCK and de-Graft Aikins, A 2015. Schizophrenia and psychosis in West Africa In Akyeampong EK, Hill AG and Kleinman A eds. The Culture of Mental Illness and Psychiatric Practice in Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Read UM 2016. ‘Doctor sickness’ or ‘pastor sickness’? Contested domains of healing power in the treatment of mental illness in Kintampo, Ghana. In Basu H, Littlewood R and Steinforth AS eds. Spirit and Mind: Mental Health at the Intersection of Religion and Psychiatry New York; Oxford: Berghahn

Read UM (forthcoming) Madness and miracles: Hoping for healing in rural GhanaIn Cosmos, Gods and Madmen in the Anthropology of Medicine Littlewood R and Lynch R eds. New York; Oxford: Berghahn

Harding S, Read UM, Molaodi OR, et al. 2015. The Determinants of young Adult Social well-being and Health (DASH) study: diversity, psychosocial determinants and health. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 50(8): 1173-1188. DOI 10.1007/s00127-015-1047-9


Reid A, Lenguerrand E, Santos I, Read U, Lamontagne AD, Fritschi L & Harding S 2014. Taking risks and survival jobs: Foreign-born workers and work-related injuries in Australia. Safety Science, 70:378-386. doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2014.07.002

Read UM 2014.Health inequalities: From ethnicity to diversity (editorial) Ethnicity and Health 2014; 19(2):119-121. DOI:10.1080/20445911.2014.887044

Read UM 2014. Molaodi OR, Enayat ZE, Harding S. 2013. Resilience in the city? Evidence from the Determinants of young Adult Social wellbeing and Health (DASH) longitudinal study of diverse young adults. The Lancet;382:S84. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62509-X

Harding S, Enayat ZE, Cassidy A, Read UM, Ferrell C, Molaodi OR. 2013. The effect of flexible settings on participation rates, data quality, and costs in a longitudinal study of ethnically diverse young adults: the London Determinants of young Adult Social wellbeing and Health (DASH) study. The Lancet; 382:S41. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62466-6

Read, UM, Doku, VCK 2012. Mental health research in Ghana: A literature review Ghana Medical Journal 46(2):29-38

Doku, V., Ofori-Atta, A., Akpalu, B., Osei, A., Read, U., Cooper, S. and the MHaPP Research Programme Consortium 2011. Stakeholders' perceptions of the main challenges facing Ghana's mental health care system: A qualitative analysis International Journal of Culture and Mental Health4:8-22. DOI:10.1080/17542863.2010.503038

Awenva D, Read UM, Ofori-Attah AL, Doku, VCK, Akpalu B, Osei AO, Flisher AJand the MHaPP Research Programme Consortium 2010.From mental health policy development in Ghana to implementation: What are the barriers? African Journal of Psychiatry 13:184-191

Ofori-Attah AL, Read UM, Lund C and the MHaPP Research Programme Consortium 2010. A situation analysis of mental health services and legislation in Ghana: Challenges for TransformationAfrican Journal of Psychiatry 13:99-108

Book Reviews

Read UM 2015. Matthew M Heaton Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization and the Globalization of Psychiatry 2013. Athens, Ohio University Press 249pp. Anthropology & Medicine 22(3):  330-333 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13648470.2015.1096604

Read UM 2014. Medical anthropology and health inequalities in Africa: moving beyond cultureReview of Bernhard Bierlich (2007) The Problem of Money: African Agency and Western Medicine in Northern Ghana and Lianne Holten (2013) Mothers, Medicine and Morality in Rural Mali: An Ethnographic Study of Therapy Management of Pregnancy and Children's Illness Episodes. Africa 84(3):487-489. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0001972014000217

Read U 2011. Review of Spirituality and Psychiatry, eds. Cook C, Powell A and Sims A Mental Health, Religion and Culture 14(1):83-86. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2010.487379