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The construction of mental health as a technological problem in India

Mills, C. & Hilberg, E. (2018). The construction of mental health as a technological problem in India. Critical Public Health, doi: 10.1080/09581596.2018.1508823


This paper points to an underexplored relationship of reinforcement between processes of quantification and digitization in the construction of mental health as amenable to technological intervention, in India. Increasingly, technology is used to collect mental health data, to diagnose mental health problems, and as a route of mental health intervention and clinical management. At the same time, mental health has become recognized as a new public health priority in India, and within national and global public health agendas. We explore two sites of the technological problematisation of mental health in India: a large-scale survey calculating prevalence, and a smartphone app to manage stress. We show how digital technology is deployed both to frame a ‘need’ for, and to implement, mental health interventions. We then trace the epistemologies and colonial histories of ‘psy’ technologies, which question assumptions of digital empowerment and of top-down ‘western’ imposition. Our findings show that in India such technologies work both to discipline and liberate users. The paper aims to encourage global debate inclusive of those positioned inside and outside of the ‘black box’ of mental health technology and data production, and to contribute to shaping a future research agenda that analyzes quantification and digitization as key drivers in global advocacy to make mental health count.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in 'Critical Public Health' on 13 Aug 2018, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Digital technology, ethnography, India, mental health, quantification
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
Text - Accepted Version
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