“What is mental health? What is mental illness? How is the experience, understanding, and treatment of mental health and illness shaped by one’s social world? How do people recover mental health and what can we do to help?”
I grew up asking these questions because my little brother struggled with terrifying hallucinations as a child. His experiences and my family’s struggles to help him navigate the fragmented and chaotic American mental health care system has motivated my life’s work.
When I was in college, I learned more about anthropology – how its methods offer an opportunity to engage deeply with and better understand individuals, families, and communities over extended periods. These methods empowered me to consider the whole person, their social world, and the interplay between the two, which opened up new ways to research and write about mental health.
What does it mean to be mentally healthy? Who decides? How does one’s social world shape their experience and understanding of extreme mental states? How is the treatment on offer in different social contexts helpful or harmful?
I earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in Comparative Human Development under the supervision anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann and developmental psychologist Sydney Hans and social work professor Beth Angell. I spent three years engaging in fieldwork with people who had experienced long-term psychotic disorders, mostly schizophrenia, and the people trying to help them recover. This is the focus of Recovery’s Edge, my first book.
My research and teaching continue to focus on people experiencing extreme mental states like psychosis, their loved ones, and those trying to help them. I have engaged in this research in two radically different settings – the U.S. and Tanzania.
My efforts aim to serve people across the spectrum – from young people experiencing psychosis for the first time to people who have experienced long-term psychiatric disability and some of the hard outcomes that can accompany it like underemployment, incarceration, and homelessness.
Every day, I am excited to research and write about innovative ways to offer better and more equitable mental health care both within and outside of the traditional mental health system.
When I am not doing research or teaching, you can find me enjoying time with my family, taking long walks outside with my adorable dog, cooking tasty dinners, and listening to and playing music.
|Neely Myers, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, UT Southwestern Medical School