Dr. Helen Spandler

Reader in Mental Health

School of Social Work, Care and Community

Harrington Building, HA225

+44 (0) 1772 89 3416

Subject Areas: Mental Health; Health and Social Care; Social Work, Social Policy and Community Care

Helen is Reader in Mental Health in the School of Social Work and an Associate of the Psychosocial Research Unit (PRU) at UCLan. She is primarily a qualitative researcher in mental health and critical social theory/policy. She is currently working on a number of research projects and is the Principal Investigator on a 2 year research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on informal support. She is on the editorial collective of Asylum: the magazine for Democratic Psychiatry.

Full Profile

Helen joined the School of Social Work as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in May 2004. She has completed a number of research projects, primarily in the field of mental health. She is interested in using reflexive and critical research methods to understand health and social care practices, policies and politics. She is the author of 'Who's Hurting Who?' (42nd Street, 1996); 'Asylum to Action: Paddington Day Hospital, Therapeutic Communities and Beyond' (JKP. 2006); and 'Beyond Fear and Control: working with young people who self-harm' (edited, PCCS books, 2007). She has just edited a new book (with Jill Anderson and Bob Sapey)'Distress or Disability?: Mental Health and the Politics of Disablement' Policy Press, 2015)

Research Interests:

Informal support, kindness and compassion
Football, gender and mental health;
Self directed support and personalisation in social care;
Existentialism and mental health;
Therapeutic communities and non-medicalised crisis alternatives;
Arts and mental health
Social Movements, political activism and social change


PhD (Manchester Metropolitan University) Discourse Unit, Department of Psychology and Speech Pathology (2002).
MA (Sheffield) Psychiatry, Philosophy and Society (1994).
BA (Hons) (East London) By Independent Study (1992).
Post Grad Cert (UCLan) Research Student Supervision (2007)
Manchester Course in Group Psychotherapy (Institute of Group Analysis) (1997)

Selected Publications (peer reviewed)

Cresswell, M. and Spandler, H. (2015) Psychopolitics Today: a response to Tad Tietze. Critical and Radical Social Work 3(1): 119-123

Spandler, H. Roy, A. Mckeown, M. (2014) Playing by the rules: Gender relations in a football and mental health project. Journal of Men’s Studies. Vol. 22; No 2: 140-154

Spandler, H. Roy, A. Mckeown, M. (2014) Using football metaphor to engage men in mental health services. Journal of Social Work Practice. 28(2) 229-245

Spandler, H. Mckeown, M. Roy, A. and Hurley, M. (2013) Football metaphor and mental well-being: an evaluation of the It’s a Goal! programme. Journal of Mental Health. 22(6), Pages 544-554

Cresswell, M. and Spandler, H. (2012) The Engaged Academic: Academic Intellectuals and the Psychiatric Survivor Movement. Social Movement Studies 11(4).

More publications

Research Projects

2015 - Disability, distress and the politics of austerity (with Steve Dodd, post doctorial research assistant).

2013-2015 Landscapes of Helping: exploring informal support. Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (with red Consultancy)

2013-2015 Mutual Recovery and creative practice. Funded by AHRC Connected Communities. (with Prof Paul Crawford, Nottingham University and Dr. Lydia Lewis, Wolverhampton University)


2010-2012 Evaluation of the 'It’s a Goal!' Programme. Funded by North West Mental Health Improvement Programme

2008-13 Evaluation of Self Directed Support Pilot Sites in Scotland: Funded by the Scottish Government (with Dr. Julie Ridley, UCLan)

Teaching Activities and Responsibilities

She contributes to various undergraduate and postgraduate research modules and mental health modules across the School. Helen specifically teaches on the BA social work module in Psychosocial Studies and Social Perspectives in Mental Health.

Helen has successfully supervised 4 PhDs to completion at Uclan (2 as Director of Studies) and is currently the Director of Studies for 2 PhDs (in mental health and disability studies).

She has externally examined a number of PhDs and D.Clin Psys in the UK (including the Open University Lancaster; Durham; Leeds; Salford; and Nottingham); Australia and Canada.

External Activities

Member of the ASYLUM collective: the magazine for democratic psychiatry.

Member of Soteria Network UK, an organisation promoting the work of Soteria House and in setting up non-coercive, minimum/non-medication services for people experiencing psychosis; and ISPS (the International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis)

Member of The Society for Existential Analysis (SEA) and the Northern Existential discussion group in Manchester.

Senior Fellow, Institute of Mental Health, the University of Nottingham

Helen has ongoing collaborations with colleagues from the School of Disability Studies at Ryserson University, Toronto in Canada relating to initiatives such as 'mad positive in the academy' and 'mad histories' (with Mick Mckeown, UCLan).

Helen works closely with colleagues in COMENSUS and SUCAG, the service user and carer project at UCLan.

Editorial Boards

Helen is on the editorial board of the Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities.

She is a panel assessor for the Journal of Social Work Practice and the Annual Review of Critical Psychology.


Helen has reviewed large research project bids for research councils both in the UK (e.g. ESRC and NIHR) and abroad (including Hong Kong, Canada and Ireland).

Peer reviewer for British Journal of Social Work; Social Movement Studies, Childhood and Society; Therapeutic Communities; Journal Social Work Practice, Journal of Social Policy; Health and Place; Men and Masculinities; Journal of Adult Protection; Journal of Mental Health; Mental Health Review; Sociology of Health and Illness; Journal of Affective Disorders etc.