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'The Lion’s Den’: The Epistemic Dimensions of Invisible Emotional Labour in Service-User Involvement Spaces

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article numberxi
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Ethics in Mental Health
Accepted/In press24 Mar 2019
Published15 Jul 2019

King's Authors


There has been an exponential growth in Service-User Involvement within mental health services. However, little attention has been paid to affective costs, or the ethical consequences of bringing ‘service users’ into professional spaces as nominal equals,spaces sometimes hostile and fraught with interdisciplinary power struggles. This paper will draw on existing theory about the emotional labour required of marginalised people in unequal and invalidated positions; epistemic injustice and the hermeneutical lacuna of silenced or unnamed struggles; and Critical Race Studies’ illumination of everyday micro-aggressions. I will build on this literature by presenting the empirical findings of my PhD research in Ireland on the emotional cost for service users of entering into contested spaces. These empirical findings also reveal different resistance strategies used by activists to both disrupt and survive in these emotionally challenging settings. It is imperative to focus an ethical gaze on the invisible emotional labour occurring in these contested spaces.

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