Left alone in a storm of stress

By Natalia Braun, September 2019

“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

Alexander Den Heijer

We are living in an age of stress. The very word ‘stress’ has become an everyday, unavoidable companion. In recent decades, our “stress (or allostatic) loads” have risen starkly. Today’s individuals increasingly suffer from what military has called VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.1 We struggle with non-stop changes and transformations without regaining equilibrium, maintaining pathological stress levels.

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Period power? Ideas for intervening in menstrual poverty

By Tracy Morison & Sheralee Wootton, August 2019

Recently we observed Menstrual Hygiene Day, an annual awareness day on 28th May initiated in 2014 by the German-based NGO WASH United to shine a light on menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Specifically, this day seeks to publicise ‘period poverty’: the lack of access to adequate menstrual products faced by many in low income countries and, it is becoming increasingly apparent, by poorer women1 in rich countries. The movement’s vision is:

“…to create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period”.

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On becoming a feckless wastrel

By Wendy Stainton Rogers, June 2019

As a critical health psychologist, I have been haunted by the image of the feckless wastrel – my name for the character created by neoliberal forces to justify treating particular people as incompetent, unworthy and undeserving.

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The Centre for Critical Psychology (CC-Psy) at Aberystwyth, UK

We’re looking for allies. We need allies… there are lots of people who’ve had enough and are thinking, feeling, and working in similar directions: it’s not a question of fashion but of a deeper “spirit of the age” informing converging projects in a wide range of fields (Deleuze 1995, 22)[1].


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Research-Informed Social Enterprises with South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda: A Partnership Project

By Helen Liebling, Hazel Barrett and Pascal Niyonkuru – May, 2019

Health Centre 4 in Bidi Bidi.

Helen Liebling, Hazel Barrett and Pascal Niyonkuru’s work demonstrates how the impact of qualitative research can be maximised to effect real changes in the lives of marginalised people. The researchers report on how they used their participatory research on the experiences of South Sudanese refugees to start social enterprises for the purposes of empowerment and capacity building. Their hope is that their intervention will serve as a model that other refugees could benefit from.

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Career file: Catriona Macleod

Catriona Macleod
is an ISCHP international representative from South Africa. She works at Rhodes University where she holds the positions of Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction (CSSR) research programme. She is a leader in feminist health psychology and has made significant been in two main areas: sexual and reproductive health and feminist theory in Psychology.

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Context is best: Breast versus bottle is NOT the debate

By Eva Neely, April 2019

Bottle vs breast – the ‘milk wars’ are missing the point

Sparked by the release of yet another parenting book, I recently found myself on the social media sidelines of yet another heated breast versus bottle dispute. At the heart of the breastfeeding/bottle-feeding debate lies the desire to determine the right way to infant feed. Yet, as we know, when it comes to childrearing there is no universal ‘right’ way. These ‘milk wars’ simply distract us from addressing what actually matters.

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Career File: Christine Stephens

Chris is one of the founding ISCHP members. She is currently Treasurer and has also been Chair. Currently, she is a Professor in the School of Psychology at Massey University in New Zealand–considered the cradle of critical health psychology. She co-leads the Health and Ageing Research Team, who has been conducting a longitudinal study of ageing, following older New Zealanders and their quality of life since 2006. In this Career File, Chris shares how she got to be where she is today.

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Taboo-busting: Menopause

By Hilary Baxter, March 2019

 Still image from Puzzled promo film © Hilary Baxter 2018.

The menopause is not sexy.

Searching for open access pictures of menopausal women generates photographs of mainly anxious expressions. Broadly speaking, from this snapshot of instant culture the menopause is often defined by frowny faces; definitely not sexy. This bad mood stereotype might be countered by evidence of non-frowny women on TV programmes, in films and other forms of mass visual culture; except here we note an absence. The 2015 Ofcom report on the BBC highlighted that women over the age of 55 were seen less frequently and more negatively than males of the same age. In the top 100 grossing US films of 2017, there were 33 female leads or co-leads of which only five were over the age of 45. The erasure of mid-life woman from everyday screen cultures is echoed in newspapers and even museum collections. This invisibility linked to silence about experiences and haphazard information sources renders menopause as a taboo subject.

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Career file: Brett Scholz


Brett taking a moment to sit and watch the railway on a recent getaway to Darjeeling.

Brett Scholz is a research fellow in the Medical School at The Australian National University. His work is concerned with consumer leadership in health services and systems, and the allyship that non-consumers can engage in to create opportunities for consumer leadership. He is one of the co-editors of ISCHP’s podcast The Operative Word. He can never say no to a cup of tea.

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Hungry in hospital: Parents go without meals as hospitals pinch pennies

by Rebekah Graham, February 2019

Addressing the social injustices that underpin health issues has become a priority of growing urgency for socially-responsive health psychologists. Alongside growing inequality across the globe, the issue of food insecurity has become more important. In Aotearoa (New Zealand), Rebekah Graham’s research on the everyday experiences of families facing food insecurity highlights food as an important social determinant of health. In this post, she considers an aspect of these families’ experiences that has been taken-for-granted in health: what happens when a child goes to hospital?

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Career file: Ally Gibson

Ally Gibson, is a long-time ISCHP member and co-host of the ISCHP pod-cast. Originally hailing from South Africa, Ally has just taken up a lectureship in the recently established School of Health at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).  Prior to this, she held a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW Sydney (Australia), where she also coordinated the Qualitative Research Network Hub.  We asked Ally about her career path, experiences, and thoughts about working as an academic.

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Embodiment, disability and growing old

By Wendy Stainton Rogers, December, 2018

John Cromby, in his book Feeling Bodies: Embodying Psychology makes a strong argument for developing an embodied psychology – ‘one that takes seriously the observation that absolutely all experience depends upon our living bodies for its very character, as well as its mere possibility’ (Cromby, 2015: 7).

As someone who has a severely damaged and dysfunctional body I feel strongly that we critical health psychologists need to take a lot more notice of people’s lived experience of their bodies. At times, I think, we get so deeply embroiled in fascinating analyses of, for example, the misuse of power, and the need for social justice (to mention just two of our preoccupations) we fail to take account of the fundamental materiality of being human.  But it isn’t that simple, as I explain here.

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Career File: Tracy Morison

Dr Tracy Morison moved to Aotearoa (New Zealand) two and a half years ago to join the critical health psychology team at Massey University. She now teaches health promotion and critical social psychology and is also a research associate of the Critical Studies in Sexualities and Reproduction research programme at Rhodes University, South Africa. Find out more about Tracy’s academic journey in this Career File. 

Profile 31.08.18

How did you embark on a career in academia? What was it that prompted this decision?  I didn’t decide to become an academic; I think academia slowly drew me in! In retrospect, I think I was always destined for the academy. I loved learning as a child and was, according to my peers, a ‘boffin’ (as they called Academic achievers then). When I was in grade 4, I I wrote a composition saying I wanted to be ‘an author’ when I grew up. Then, some years later, I explained that I wanted to be a researcher on my honours application. I think academe has allowed me to combine both of these. My love of language led me to qualitative research and in my postgrad years, I also discovered the rewards of teaching and mentoring. So here I am!  Continue reading

A sobering take on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome awareness campaigns

By Pieter Bredenkamp & Nicola Jearey-Graham

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“1 in 10 South African babies are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). What if unborn children could warn their mothers about the dangers of drinking while pregnant? Because not even one drink is worth a lifetime of suffering.” This is the premise of a recent social marketing campaign featured on the website of a leading South African brewer. The campaign includes a video intended to increase awareness of the effects of alcohol on the developing foetus and urges pregnant women to act responsibly. Continue reading