Portrait of Keira Pratt-Boyden

Keira Pratt-Boyden

PhD student
Social Anthropology


PhD project: Mental health activism and alternative communal healing methods in the UK

Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing are among the greatest challenges facing Britain today and there is much debate as to the efficacy of different treatment regimes and models. Informal peer approaches are increasingly utilised. However, there is a shortage of ethnographic accounts exploring the underlying assumptions, methodology and efficacy of alternative peer, or ‘mutual help’, approaches employed by individuals who reject conventional mental health services. This project will address several gaps in mental health research by applying an anthropological lens to a pressing topic that is dominated by psychiatry and psychology. It will use theoretically and empirically grounded evidence to explore: a) (ex-)service-user activists’ perspectives on, and experiences of, conventional mental health treatments and services; b) their conceptualisations of mental health; and c) their experiences of collective mutual-help approaches to healing. 

It will offer an empirically informed understanding of alternative, community-based healing methods and contribute to debates about the theorisation, conceptualisation and treatment of mental illness in the UK.


Dr Mike Poltorak
Dr Daniela Peluso


University of Kent, Vice Chancellor's Research Scholarship


Nolas, M., Pratt-Boyden, K., Heller, F., Schöning, J. and Rauers, A. (forthcoming 2017) ‘Mixed methods Evaluation of an Interdisciplinary Innovation Project: from Analogue to Digital Ecomaps for Child Social Work Practice? Children and Youth Services Review.

Nolas, M., Watters, C., Maglajlic, R., Pratt-Boyden, K. (Forthcoming 2017) ‘On the Road: The Role of Place in Social Support’.

Crocker, J., Pratt-Boyden, K., Hislop, J., Rees S. , Locock L. , Petit-Zeman S. , Chant A., Treweek S., Cook J., Farrar N., Woolfall K., Bostock J., Bowman L., Bulbulia R. (forthcoming 2017) ‘How Might Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Improve Recruitment and Retention in Trials? A Qualitative Study Exploring the Views of Surgical Trial Staff and PPI Contributors’. Research Involvement and Engagement.

Pratt-Boyden, K. and Howard, N. (2013) ‘Occupy London as Pre-figurative Political Action.’ Development in Practice. Special Issue: Civil Society at a Crossroads. Vol. 23 (6) 729-741.

Pratt-Boyden, K. (2012) ‘Occupying the Couch: Therapy and Healing in Activist Communities,’ DVD (8-minutes).



  • Crocker, J. et al. (2019). Patient and public involvement (PPI) in UK surgical trials: a survey and focus groups with stakeholders to identify practices, views, and experiences. Trials [Online] 20. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-019-3183-0.
    Background and aims
    Historically, patient and public involvement (PPI) in the design and conduct of surgical trials has been absent or minimal, but it is now routinely recommended and even required by some research funders. We aimed to identify and describe current PPI practice in surgical trials in the United Kingdom, and to explore the views and experiences of surgical trial staff and patient or public contributors in relation to these practices. This was part of a larger study to inform development of a robust PPI intervention aimed at improving recruitment and retention in surgical trials.

    Our study had two stages: 1) an online survey to identify current PPI practice in active UK-led, adult surgical trials; and 2) focus groups and interviews with key stakeholders (surgical trial investigators, administrators, and patient or public contributors) to explore their views and experiences of PPI.

    Of 129 eligible surgical trial teams identified, 71 (55%) took part in the survey. In addition, 54 stakeholders subsequently took part in focus groups or interviews. Sixty-five (92%) survey respondents reported some kind of PPI, most commonly at the design and dissemination stages and in oversight or advisory roles. The single most common PPI activity was developing participant information sheets (72%). Participants reported mixed practice and views on a variety of issues including the involvement of patients versus lay members of the public, recruitment methods, use of role descriptions and payment for the time of PPI contributors. They suggested some solutions, including the use of written role descriptions and databases of potential PPI contributors to aid recruitment.

    UK surgical trials involve patients and members of the public in a variety of different ways, most commonly at the beginning and end of the trial lifecycle and in oversight or advisory roles. These are not without challenges and there remain uncertainties about who best to involve, why, and how. Future research should aim to address these issues.
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