Professor Brian Brown

Job: Professor of Health Communication

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Applied Social Sciences

Address: De Montfort, University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH.

T: +44 (0)116 207 8755

E: brown@dmu.ac.uk

W: www.dmu.ac.uk/hls

 

Personal profile

The core of Prof Brown's work has focused on the interpretation of human experience across a variety of different disciplines including health care, philosophy, education and spirituality studies, exploring how this may be understood with a view to improving practice and with regard to theoretical development in the social sciences. Particularly, this concerns notions of governmentality and habitus from Foucauldian and Bourdieusian sociology and how the analysis of everyday experience can afford novel theoretical developments.

Prof Brown has completed twelve books and around seventy refereed journal articles. Most notably, his books have included Evidence based health communication (with P. Crawford and R. Carter, Open University Press, 2006) and Evidence based Research: Dilemmas and debates in health care (with P. Crawford and C. Hicks, Open University Press, 2003). As well as health care, his papers have ranged across fields such as linguistics, education and sociology.

Notably this has included The habitus of hygiene (with P. Crawford, B. Nerlich and N. Koteyko, Social Science and Medicine, Post antibiotic apocalypse’: Discourses of mutation in narratives of MRSA, (with Paul Crawford, Sociology of Health and Illness 31 (4): 508-524, Soft authority: Ecologies of infection management in the working lives of modern matrons and infection control staff, (with Paul Crawford, Sociology of Health and Illness, 30, (5): 756-771), The clinical governance of the soul (with Crawford, Social Science and Medicine 55: 67-81) and Clinical governmentality (with P. Crawford and L. Mullany, Journal of Applied Linguistics 2: 273-298).

Research group affiliations

  • Psychology Research Group
  • Participation & Social Justice Research Group,
  • Mary Seacole Research Centre,
  • Health Policy Research Unit

Publications and outputs 

  • Mental Health and the Media: From Illness to Wellbeing
    Mental Health and the Media: From Illness to Wellbeing Atanasova, Dima; Koteyko, N.; Brown, Brian J.; Crawford, Paul The media are a main source of information about mental health for many people and an ever-growing body of literature is evaluating their coverage of the topic. To help keep track of such research, several comprehensive but now dated literature reviews have been published. We assess more recent studies (2007-2017) and suggest future directions by integrating (1) the ‘circuit of mass communication’ model from media and communication studies which posits that production, content and reception need to be analysed for an in-depth understanding of the media, (2) the holistic view of mental health as comprising both illness and wellbeing and (3) the critical psychiatry literature questioning the assumptions underlying psychiatric knowledge and practice. We find that recent studies have focused on content and ‘the illness side’ of mental health by examining the representation of particular mental disorders and events involving individuals with specific diagnoses. We identify as a promising development the growing interest in ‘the wellbeing side’ of mental health whereby authors have started to analyse recovery messages. We invite more production and reception research and more critical content studies which use diagnostic labels cautiously and analyse the representation of people with mental health problems as the victims of violence. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Responsibilization and recovery: shifting responsibilities on the journey through mental health care to social engagement
    Responsibilization and recovery: shifting responsibilities on the journey through mental health care to social engagement Brown, Brian J. This paper examines the trajectory of 32 service users through the mental health care system on the path to recovery. It offers a critical appraisal of the processes whereby mental health and social care services attempt to responsibilize the service user in the process of delivering recovery-oriented services. Responsibilization was often found to be onerous and counterproductive and appeared to work against their strivings for autonomy. Acting responsibly was aligned with following instructions from health professionals and managing the demands one made on services. By contrast, participants who described their involvement in civil society organisations described a good deal of effort on their own and other’s behalf, but this was not seen as burdensome, had a sense of being freely chosen and represented a source of satisfaction and accomplishment, scarcely felt as responsibility at all. Meaningful, purposive shared activity was more highly valued and enjoyed. Didactic responsibilization was something imposed on the abject or marginalised individual in the process of engaging with mental health services. However, beyond this, a number of participants had found a more subtle way of acting responsibly through civic engagement in the unmanaged spaces of social life. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Systematic review of applied theatre practice in the Indian context of mental health, resilience and well-being
    Systematic review of applied theatre practice in the Indian context of mental health, resilience and well-being Brown, Brian J.; Barrett, A.; Coope, J.; Crossley, Mark; Raghavan, Raghu This systematic review seeks to evaluate the documented uses of applied theatre practice within an Indian context. At its most particular level, the review focuses on theatre interventions within migrant slum (basti) communities and, where in evidence, the conjunction of applied theatre with research and practice from mental health and well-being, in exploring these latter issues within such communities and the level and modes of their resilience. The review also draws upon related global research to contextualise and inform the Indian context. At present, systematic reviews are not prevalent within the research fields of theatre or specifically applied theatre , yet such reviews arguably offer the breadth of objective evidence required to interrogate the efficacy of such practice. This review is therefore intended to rigorously map the existing academic research and the more diffuse online dialogues within India that are pertinent to the subject; to consider the relations, contradictions, absences and inconsistencies within this literature, and from this to articulate key findings that may be integrated into the planning and delivery of new initiatives within this field. In this regard it seeks to survey the current state of knowledge, identify problems, evaluate current theory as well as develop new theoretical paradigms.
  • The social capitals of recovery in mental health
    The social capitals of recovery in mental health Brown, Brian J.; Baker, Sally In this paper we examine the process of recovery in people who have undertaken treatment for mental health problems, based on interviews with 34 participants. We describe their experiences through the lens of social capital, focusing on the social networks and relationships within which they are embedded and which they utilise to give purpose and meaning to their lives. The accounts give sense of movement from relationships, institutions and networks which were provided through their engagement with services towards relationships outside the health care system which were more freely chosen and which provided a sense that they were able to achieve recognition and make a contribution. The latter included such activities as art, theatre and sport. The relationships and institutions with which they were engaged via the statutory services were described as burdensome and inappropriate, whereas those which were freely chosen appeared more emancipatory and positively constitutive of identity. We have called this latter experience one of ‘intentional social capital’ because the participants were deliberately choosing and orienting to these networks, and were able to derive pleasure and a sense of self from them. The findings have implications for how we see the situation of people recovering from mental health problems inasmuch as professional attitudes and practices could usefully be extended to more fully recognise and encourage wider patterns of social engagement and fulfilment occurring outside the limited contribution of clinical definitions and clinical interventions. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Health humanities: A democratizing future beyond medical humanities
    Health humanities: A democratizing future beyond medical humanities Crawford, P.; Brown, Brian J. In this chapter we will describe what we mean by ‘health humanities,’ a term – and a movement – which we have been promoting over the last decade, and discuss how this extends and develops the traditional concerns of the medical humanities, using examples from our own work. Over the last ten years, the field of health humanities has developed and been defined and characterised (Crawford et al 2010; Jones et al 2014; Crawford et al 2015; Crawford et al forthcoming). This has provided an alternative vision and platform for a more inclusive, democratised, medical and non-medical application of the arts and humanities to enhance healthcare, health and wellbeing. It is a field that aims to foreground the potential benefits of applied humanities as much as applied arts. In so doing, the field of health humanities subsumes the various unipolar initiatives in arts in health or expressive therapies and the specialist field of medical humanities. For us, the field of health humanities comprises an over-arching, defining and dynamic body of work that incorporates, and is not solely aligned with, the subfields of medical humanities, arts in health and expressive therapies.
  • Genealogies of recovery: The framing of therapeutic ambitions
    Genealogies of recovery: The framing of therapeutic ambitions Brown, Brian J.; Manning, Nick The notion of recovery has become prominent in mental health care discourse in the UK, but it is often considered as if it were a relatively novel notion, and as if it represented an alternative to conventional treatment and intervention. In this paper we explore some of the origins of the notion of recovery in the early 20th century in movements such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Recovery Inc. Whilst these phenomena are not entirely continuous with recovery in the present day, some important antecedents of the contemporary notion can be detected. These include the focus on the sufferers’ interior space as a key theatre of operations and the reinforcement and consolidation of medical ways of seeing the condition without any immediate medical supervision of the actors being necessary. This has resonance with many contemporary examples of recovery in practice where the art of living with a mental health condition is emphasised without the nature of the psychopathological condition itself being challenged. Based on the 'genealogies' workpackage of the AHRC funded 'Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery' The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Representations of mental health and arts participation in the national and local British press, 2007-2015
    Representations of mental health and arts participation in the national and local British press, 2007-2015 Atanasova, Dima; Koteyko, Nelya; Brown, Brian J.; Crawford, Paul We analysed news articles published in national and local British newspapers between 2007 and 2015 to understand (1) how mental health and arts participation were framed and (2) how the relationships between participants in arts initiatives were conceptualised. Using corpus-assisted qualitative frame analysis, we identified frames of recovery, stigma and economy. The recovery frame, which emphasised that mental illness can be treated similarly to physical illness, positioned arts participation as a form of therapy that can complement or substitute medication. The stigma frame presented arts participation as a mechanism for challenging social conceptions that mentally ill individuals are incapable of productive work. The economy frame discussed the economic burden of mentally ill individuals and portrayed arts participation as facilitating return to employment. Using thematic analysis, which also paid attention to social actors, we found that service users were identified as the prime beneficiaries of arts initiatives and arts participation was conceptualised as a way to bring people with mental health issues together. We discuss these findings against existing research on media representations of mental health and the concept of ‘mutual recovery’ and suggest what wider concurrent developments in the areas of mental health and media may account for the uncovered frames and themes. Part of the AHRC funded programme 'Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery'. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • 'Betwixt and between' Liminality in recovery stories from people with Myalgic Encephalitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
    'Betwixt and between' Liminality in recovery stories from people with Myalgic Encephalitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) Huszar, K; Brown, Brian J.; Chapman, R. This paper explores experiences of sixteen people claiming to have recovered from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) using the concept of liminality. Liminality describes the status of those falling between socially recognised and medically sanctioned categories, and illuminates both the experience of illness and the process of recovery from ME/CFS. The liminality experienced during illness was akin to that described by Turner (1969) with a degree of communitas among sufferers. As recovery progressed, participants stressed the percentage to which they had improved, and compared themselves with peers and themselves prior to the illness. Recovery did not mean transition into a post liminal phase, but involved a new liminality, characterised by straddling boundaries between illness and wellness. Participants continued strategies such as rest, pacing and meditation. This second liminal state included difficulty in communicating the experience convincingly, and estrangement from the ME/CFS community. Thus, recoverees moved from the liminality of illness to a second, and less legible state of sustained liminality in recovery, described as having one foot in the ill world, one foot in the well world. This suggests that more needs to be understood about the recovery experience to assist those making the transition toward wellness. Based on work undertaken as part of Kate Huszar's PhD. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Digital Health Humanities
    Digital Health Humanities Brown, Brian J. In this chapter we will examine the newly emerging health humanities and the opportunities these afford for explorations of patterns of language and culture, and novel examinations of the context and culture of health and illness. The health humanities represent a new departure in scholarship and practice as they attempt to include the full range of health professions as well as informal carers, creative therapies and service users themselves. Drawing on a variety of data sources from the previous decade of the author’s exploration of these themes we will examine how language use in creative activities may be associated with recovery, how literary traditions illuminate the informal storytelling of mental health practitioners and how concepts such as recovery and mutuality in health care can be productively dissected using literary-analytical techniques to indicate productive ways forward.
  • Suicide, Self-Harm and Survival Strategies in Contemporary Heavy Metal Music: A Cultural and Literary Analysis
    Suicide, Self-Harm and Survival Strategies in Contemporary Heavy Metal Music: A Cultural and Literary Analysis Baker, Charley; Brown, Brian J.

Click here for a full listing of Brown‘s publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

  • Health communication
  • Health policy
  • The historical sociology of Wales
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Epistemology
  • Social theory.

Areas of teaching

  • Theoretical and epistemological perspectives in the social sciences
  • Mental health issues
  • Interpersonal relationships,
  • Qualitative methodologies,
  • Sociology.

Current teaching includes:

  • Mental Health and Society, PSYC3200
  • Final year projects PSYC3000/PSYC3001
  • Research designs in health HEST5001
  • M.Res, MA and DHSci dissertations
  • University’s training programme for research students.

Qualifications

BSc PhD

Conference attendance

Brown, B.J. “Power and responsibility: Devolving risk to patients in an age of neoliberalism” Medical Humanities Conference, Swansea, April 2011.

Brown, B.J. ‘‘Talking about Health in English’ International Conference on English for Specific Purposes at Fooyin University November 2008.

Brown, B.J. ‘Hygiene as habitus: Putting Bourdieu to work in hospital infection control’ Emerging Diseases: Structure, controversy and change in the scientific constitution of disease patterns, University of Hamburg, February 2008.

Current research students

Prof Brown currently has 12 PhD students undertaking research on a variety of topics, including communication between health professionals and clients, the role of emotions in human service work, the role of ancient Cypriot art in contemporary creative practice and the life narratives of people in the health professions. He has examined PhD candidates on 28 occasions. 

Externally funded research grants information

AHRC programme Grant for 'Creative practice as mutual recovery: Connecting communities for mental health and wellbeing'. This is a multi-centre study involving the universities of Nottingham, Derby, Wolverhampton, Falmouth and the Royal College of Music. This programme of related projects will attempt to bring together service users, carers and practitioners in creative activities centred upon music, photography, sculpture and storytelling as well as adult education. £1.5m 2013-2018.      

CI in International Health Humanities Network Funded by the AHRC. With Paul Crawford to provide a website, a seminar series and a conference to promote the health humanities £38,000, August 2011 – July 2013.

CI in Experiences of surgical site infection Study funded by the Infection Prevention Society 2011-2012 with Judith Tanner and Wendy Padley. £4,985.

Madness in contemporary English literature. A study of the representation of madness in post 1945 English language fiction funded by the Leverhulme Trust (£91,830) with a team from Nottingham University including Paul Crawford (principal investigator) Ronald Carter, Maurice Lipsedge. March 2007-March 2010.

Cleanliness and infection control; A comparative study of discourses of cleanliness in health and agriculture examining discourses surrounding biosecurity concentrating on infections such as MRSA and zoonoses such as avian flu, funded by the ESRC (£151,000) with a team from Nottingham University, including Brigitte Nerlich (principal investigator) Paul Crawford, Ronald Carter. Rated ‘outstanding’. May 2006 to October 2008.

Mothers, Wives and Changing Lives; A project concerned with oral history and women’s working lives in mid-twentieth century Wales, funded by the British Academy (£6655) with a team from Bangor University including Howard Davies and Sally Baker. January 2007 - March 2007.

Internally funded research project information

Healthcare-Associated Infection Control in the Ambulance Service. Grant from De Montfort University’s Revolving Investment Fund to conduct a study of healthcare associated infection risk and infection control in the ambulance service. October 2010 to July 2011.

The experience of illness. Grant from De Montfort University’s pump priming fund to conduct a study of peoples’ experience of long term, non–life-threatening illness. February 2005 – July 2005.

Role plays in the assessment of nurses undergoing training as nurse prescribers. Grant from De Montfort University’s pump priming fund to cover equipment and transcription costs. February 2002 – July 2002.

Online learning for postgraduates in qualitative methodology Funded through the Roberts scheme, this project sought to develop an online learning module in qualitative methodology for De Montfort University’s postgraduate students, with Simon Rogerson and Matthew Croft Wake. This led to the development of module no. REST7526. July 2009-July 2010.

Professional esteem indicators

Prof Brown has served as a reviewer for Social Science and Medicine, Journal of Social Work, Journal of Applied Linguistics, Human Relations, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Feminism and Psychology, Health Risk and Society, Biomed Central, Diversity in Health and Care, Sociologia Ruralis, Health and Social Care in the Community.

Guest editor of special issues Journal of Medical Humanities (2012) and Mental Health Review (2011) on the humanities in health care.

Case studies

Brief communication in health care
A current focus of interest is that of brief encounters and brief communication in health care. Initial indications suggest that relatively fleeting encounters can make a huge difference to the emotional feel of the health care experience and can even accelerate recovery for patients. Despite guidance in documents such as Tomorrow’s Doctors (General Medical Council, 2009) which stresses the desirability of involving patients in decision making about their care and Good Medical Practice (2009) emphasising working in partnership with patients, a production line approach all too frequently prevails in practice. Even in formally scheduled consultations, the emphasis is often to elicit information and undertake standardized assessments as quickly as possible rather than form a supportive social relationship. Therefore there is an urgent need to explore how these time-limited encounters can be rendered as effective as possible. Our work on what we have called ‘Brief, Ordinary and Effective’ (BOE) communication in health care has already excited interest. It has informed the Chief Nursing Officer’s report on Mental Health Nursing (Department of Health, 2006), which required application in all mental health nurse training and practice in the UK. More recently, the commissioned report into the impact of Chief Nursing Officer’s review found that the BOE-driven communication competencies and capabilities achieved the highest implementation score for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (Callaghan et al, 2010). The BOE Model was originally presented in outline in Brown et al (2006) and further developed in Crawford et al (2006) and Brown and Crawford (2011). Possible future developments include further dissemination via Managed Innovation Networks and a book length monograph for which we have commenced negotiation with publishers.

Health Humanities
An unexpected area of success over the last few years has concerned the health humanities. This represents an attempt to explore interrelationships between the humanities and health care disciplines and the contribution of the humanities and arts to the full range of health care disciplines. It represents a broader and more inclusive approach than the existing medical humanities, which has often focussed on the ethics, history and philosophy of medicine itself. This new discipline also offers the possibilities of innovative and creative contributions to therapeutic activity. This ambition was prompted by our success in obtaining a Leverhulme grant to study representations of madness in English literature from 1945 to the present, and an AHRC grant to set up a ‘Madness and Literature Network’. This yielded a seminar series through 2008-2010 and culminated in an international conference in August 2010 attracting speakers from the US and over 30 other countries in the global scholarly community. Of particular note were contributions from internationally renowned scholars Elaine Showalter (The Female Malady) and Kay Redfield Jamison (Touched by Fire, An Unquiet Mind). Following on from this we have guest edited a special issue of Journal of Medical Humanities (for over thirty years the leading journal in the medical humanities field) composed of key papers from the conference. In addition we edited a special issue of Mental Health Review on the role of the humanities in mental health care.

The AHRC have also generously supported our International Health humanities Network http://www.healthhumanities.org/.

We have recently secured an AHRC Programme Grant to fund a multi centre study of arts and humanities in mental health care, involving scholars and practitioners from numerous institutions. The initiatives in this programme include projects concerned with photography, music, sculpture, and storytelling where service users, carers and practitioners are brought together to benefit from creative activities. 

This health humanities initiative offers the possibility of international leadership in a field poised to develop rapidly in the next few years. It offers also the opportunity to develop novel interdisciplinary collaborations and creative syntheses. From the point of view of the health and social sciences it provides innovative means of dissemination and impact, through exhibition, performance, drama and literature as well as formal academic publishing, to seek new syntheses, develop further humanities and arts based interventions in health and social care and enhance dissemination and impact.

Brown

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