King's College London

Research portal

Dr Ursula Read

Biographical details

Ursula worked as an occupational therapist in NHS mental health services before completing a PhD in anthropology at  University College London in 2012. Her doctoral research explored the experiences of people living with severe mental illness and their families in rural Ghana, including use of traditional and faith healers and mental health services.  

Following her PhD Ursula undertook an MRC career development fellowship at the University of Glasgow to develop a qualitative investigation of experiences of family life, religion, and identity with young adults from different ethnic backgrounds in London as part of an MRC cohort study, The Determinants of young Adult Social Wellbeing and Health (DASH).

From 2016-17 Ursula was a research fellow at the Centre de Recherche Médecine, Sciences, Santé, Santé Mentale et Société (CERMES3) in Paris working with the ERC project Globhealth: From international public health to global health to explore the emergence of rights-based approaches to mental health in Ghana, including the impact of new mental health legislation and the expansion of community-based treatment.

Since 2017 Ursula has been working with colleagues at the University of Ghana on the Wellcome Trust collaborative project Mental Health and Justice. In the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the project uses participatory and ethnographic methods to investigate community inclusion for people with mental illness in urban and rural settings in Ghana.

Ursula also leads on qualitative evaluation of the Congregations Taking Action against NCDs (CONTACT) study funded by the MRC joint-funding initiative which examines the feasibility of training health advocates in places of worship in the Caribbean to strengthen primary care systems in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.

In 2018 with Dr Erminia Colucci, Middlesex University and Dr Lily Kpobi, University of Ghana, Ursula began research using participatory visual methodologies to explore the ways in which mental health workers in Ghana and Indonesia collaborate with traditional and faith healers to prevent human rights abuses and improve care. This was funded by an ESRC/AHRC GCRF grant.

In 2020 Ursula was awarded funding from the KCL ESRC Impact Acceleration scheme to work with artists and people with lived experience of mental illness in Ghana to explore the potential of arts-based methods to engage communities in conversations around mental health and develop actions for advocacy and activism.

Research interests

Ursula uses ethnographic and participatory methods to explore experiences of mental illness and social exclusion and the impact of interventions to expand access to community-based care and promote human rights. Since 2005 she has conducted extensive fieldwork in Ghana, focusing on the impact of mental illness on family life, moral and ethical dilemmas around care and consent, and the relationship between psychiatric services and traditional and faith healers. Her research is also concerned with social and structural determinants of health and inequalities and the potential of community resources such as places of worship for health promotion. She has conducted research in Ghana, the Caribbean and the UK. 

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454