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Re-imagining Mental Health and Illness: Spiritual Care as a way of looking with Dr. Swinton

Dr. Swinton's talk will explore ways in which the church can understand and re-think mental health and ill-health and will discuss attitudes and perspectives that can enable congregations to see mental health and ill-health differently and in so doing care more effectively.  It will explore issues of hospitality and friendship and provide ways in which health and healing can be embodied and worked out in ways that are faithful to the goals of religious communities, but at the same time deeply inclusive of those who are often marginalised and forgotten about.

The foundation for much of my research and teaching has emerged from my background in nursing, ministry and healthcare chaplaincy. I worked as a nurse for sixteen years initially within the field of mental health and latterly within the area of learning disabilities. I also worked for a number of years as a hospital chaplain, latterly as a community mental health chaplain. It was whilst working in these fields that I began to gain a passion for developing modes of care that are genuinely person centred and which take seriously the significance of theology, spirituality and religion within the processes of healing, healing and community building.

I am an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland with a strong commitment to supporting the work of the church. I am member of Aberdeen Presbytery and currently secretary of Christ's College, which is responsible for the welfare and education of candidates for the ministry of the Church of Scotland.

I have a particular interest in multidisciplinary education and research. At present I teach cross-college courses in the schools of nursing and medicine at the University of Aberdeen. For a number of years I have taught an interdisciplinary course on spirituality and health that involves nursing students, medical students and students from the Arts and Theology. To my knowledge there is no other course like this in the UK. I also teach on spirituality and healthcare to nurses and occupational therapists at Robert Gordon's University in Aberdeen.

I also engage in cross-college interdisciplinary research. An example of this would be our ongoing collaborative research with Professor Steve Heys who heads up the Breast Cancer Unit at Forresterhill Hospital in Aberdeen. We are working on a number of projects exploring the relationship between spirituality and women's experiences of breast cancer.

My research profile is similarly multidisciplinary in its emphasis, and I have published extensively within the area of practical theology, pastoral care, mental health studies, disability theology and nursing.

I am honorary professor of nursing in the Centre for Advanced Studies in Nursing at the University of Aberdeen ( http://www.abdn.ac.uk/nursing/) where I teach the role of the humanities and healthcare, nursing ethics and qualitative research. I supervise PhD students in nursing studies within a variety of areas. I continue to research and publish in the areas of nursing and medicine.