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Students, psychosocial problems and shame in neoliberal higher education

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In this article, we point to mental health as a new sorting mechanism in higher education (HE), working through categories informed by psychological and psychiatric knowledge, which currently permeate the field of education. The significant increase in young people, for example students in HE, with mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression seems to be a general development in Western countries over the past decade. The focus on mental health sets in motion a broad range of wellbeing discussions and initiatives in terms of mental illness and/or psychiatric diagnoses, rather than in terms of learning, pedagogy or participation and inequalities in education. This directs attention to particular kinds of students rather than to educational relations, cultures and contexts. Against this background, we set out to discuss how certain categorisations and understandings of students’ wellbeing and everyday problems, inspired by the psy-sciences, intertwine with neoliberal traits in educational institutions, and come to mediate students’ emotional experience of and coping with psychosocial problems and their participation in HE.
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Keywords: higher education; inequality; mental health; shame; students

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Roskilde University, Denmark

Publication date: October 2020

This article was made available online on September 21, 2020 as a Fast Track article with title: "Students, psychosocial problems and shame in neoliberal higher education".

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  • The Journal of Psychosocial Studies publishes work that falls within the broad transdisciplinary area of Psychosocial Studies, defined by a commitment to understanding the significance of the links between internal and external worlds.

    Psychosocial Studies draws on a range of disciplines to explore the interactive relationships between self, culture and society. Whilst often focusing on affect and emotion it explores the complexities of subjectivity and experience as it is lived and shaped in different contexts and settings. This approach is defined by a commitment to exploration of the links between the internal and external worlds; both the deeply personal and profoundly social.

    We are interested in publishing papers that bring a psychosocial perspective that might help us understand a range of contemporary social phenomena. This might be work on family life, welfare practices, criminal justice issues, youth work, cultural products (such as film, art and literature).

    As the adopted journal of the Association for Psychosocial Studies (APS) we especially seek to promote work that is interdisciplinary and considers issues of practice. The Journal of Psychosocial Studies provides space for research and writing that crosses the traditional boundaries between disciplines in the social sciences, humanities and the arts. We also publish work that emerges from and reflects on practice (that might include for example: social work, education, law, business studies, psychotherapy, group analysis and counselling) that draws on these theoretical frames.

    The Journal provides both a supportive and an academically rigorous space for new and established researchers to disseminate ideas, and hence stimulate debate in the psychosocial field. We welcome submissions from across the globe. Our strong International Editorial Board ensures that the Journal of Psychosocial Studies provides a publishing platform that transcends international boundaries. All published academic articles undergo our thorough double-blind peer review process. Please see the instructions for authors to find out how to submit an article.

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