Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Vital spaces and mental health
  1. Steven D Brown1,
  2. Paula Reavey2
  1. 1 Open University Business School, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  2. 2 School of Applied Sciences, London South Bank University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Steven D Brown, People and Organizations, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK; steven.brown{at}


The impact of social and material conditions on mental health is well established but lacking in a coherent approach. We offer the concept of ‘vitality’ as means of describing how environments facilitate ‘feelings of being alive’ that cut across existing diagnostic categories. Drawing on the work of Stern, Fuchs, Worms and Duff, we argue that vitality is not solely a quality of an individual body, but rather emerges from attunements and resonances between bodies and materials. We use vitality as a lens to explore how movements within and between assembled sets of relations can facilitate or disable feelings and expressions of being alive. Building on extended discussions of both inpatient and community-based mental healthcare, we sketch out a research agenda for analysing ‘vital spaces’.

  • vitalism
  • forms of vitality
  • assemblages
  • therapeutic landscapes
  • secure psychiatric care
  • community mental health
  • recovery

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors The authors contributed equally to the preparation of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.