Jayasree Kalathil, PhD
Jayasree has encountered mental health services in India and in the UK. Most of her adult life was spent negotiating six different psychiatric diagnoses, western medicine, faith and religious healing. The net result of this was that she developed a political identity as a survivor, with strong views on healing and recovery, and what it means to remain well.
Trained in literary/cultural studies, with a Ph.D. from EFL University, Hyderabad, India, Jayasree’s academic work on madness and mental health started with an invitation to present a paper at the first national seminar on women and mental health in India in 1997. This work looked at women’s writing and how they used narrative space to talk about their distress. Her field work with women with lived experience of mental distress in Pune consolidated her interest in personal narratives of madness and distress and their political potential in rethinking mental health and psychiatric services. Her subsequent work focused on media and cultural representations of madness, family and gender issues, and the rights of people who have been diagnosed mad.
Before moving to England, Jayasree worked with Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad, and Bapu Trust, Pune, where she was the founding editor of aaina, India’s first and only mental health advocacy newsletter. In London, she has worked with Mental Health Media on the anti-discrimination project, Open Up. Later, she worked with the Breaking the Circles of Fear team on the Race Equality Education and Training project with the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. She has served as the interim project manager of Catch-a-Fiya, a network for service users and survivors from BME communities, and of the National BME Mental Health Advocacy Project, both hosted by the Afiya Trust. She continues to work closely with the National Survivor User Network, the Afiya Trust and the Mental Health Foundation.
Jayasree was the editor of Open Mind, the mental health magazine published by Mind from 2010-2012 and Co-Chair of the Social Perspectives Network from 2009-2012. She is currently a member of the Expert Reference Group set up by the Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health to produce commissioning guidance for BME services.
Jayasree received the Janice Sinson Research Prize from the Mental Health Foundation in 2011 for her work on the Recovery and Resilience project.
She has published several articles, reports and book chapters, both in India and in the UK (see the publications section for some of her work). She is the author of a children’s book, The Sack-cloth Man, published by DC Books in 2009. She is a published poet and also enjoys translating literary works from Malayalam, her mother tongue, to English.
Jayasree has been an active participant in the women’s movement in India. She finds that the involvement in mental health politics and the service user/survivor movement is an essential part of her recovery. Other important elements of her recovery include an ever-growing passion in quilt making and growing organic vegetables in the small back garden of her South London house she shares with her husband.