In this article, three scholars jointly investigate questions of Western colonization and mental health. While their areas of interest and experience vary, the authors discuss oppression as a common thread connecting their ideas about mental health and its medicalization. In line with Toyosaki et al. (2009), the researchers did a community autoethnography, performing written dialogue as a dynamic research method. Using a sequential model, Kelly Limes Taylor wrote about her experience, passed it on to Rita Sørly and Bengt Karlsson. Karlsson added his story to the previous writing, and he passed it on to Sørly for further addition of stories. Sørly passed the stories added to Limes Taylor, which added new reflections. Together, the three researchers explore various questions: Who determines what is normal or humane in our society, and who gets left out of those decisions? Do mental health providers make a positive difference, or are they merely legalizing new forms of oppression? What happens when one simply cannot mentally assimilate the dominant narratives that excuse oppression, environmental destruction, and/or insatiable economic practice? Through the lens of their own experience, Limes Taylor, Sørly, and Karlsson share their thoughts on these and other questions as they jointly explore ideas of mental health identity in the context of Western colonialism.


mental health, colonialism, autoethnography

Author Bio(s)

Kelly Limes Taylor , Ph.D. is formerly an assistant professor of Social Foundations of Education Department of Culture, Language, and Leadership in the College of Education University of North Georgia, and now an independent scholar. Please direct corresspondence to k.limestaylor@gmail.com.

Rita Sørly is an Associate Professor at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Ph.D. in user participation in mental health work. She is also editor of the Journal of Mental Health Work. Her research interests are mental health and substance abuse work, user participation, collaborative research, narrative theory and method, social work, and Sami health research. Please direct corresspondence to rita.sorly@uit.no.

Bengt Karlsson is Professor of mental health work and Head of the Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, University of Southeast Norway. Professional and research interests are fundamental issues in mental health work, democratic knowledge development, and open dialogue in network meetings. Please direct corresspondence to bengt.karlsson@usn.no.


We would like to thank the reviewers for their helpful comments on our early version of the article.

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