The Showroom

Panel discussion: Wellbeing and Freedom of Expression in a Prevent Culture


How do policies like Prevent affect mental health, and what are the current strategies to raise awareness of its impact in today’s society? Organised by Professor Lisa Downing in collaboration with The Showroom, this event brings together speakers who are professionally invested in the psychological consequences of the Prevent duty, and its curtailment of freedom of expression: Dr Shazad Amin - Chief Executive of Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND), Dr Jonathan Hurlow - chair of the Psychiatry Division of the Birmingham Medical Institute and a council member for the Birmingham Medico-Legal Society, and Professor Basia Spalek - Visiting Professor in Conflict Transformation at the University of Derby.

The discussion will focus on three broad issues through a series of case studies. First, the impact on the mental health of those having to participate in the strategy – GPs, psychiatrists, teachers, social workers and police – often against their own conscience. Secondly, the effect on the collective psychological condition of a nation living in a state of impaired freedom of expression. Lastly, Prevent’s impact on gender and race stereotyping and the unconscious bias involved in reporting policies and counter-extremism strategies more generally.

Building upon a series of workshops and talks that constitute an integral part of Navine G. Khan-Dossos' exhibition There Is No Alternative at The Showroom, each aimed at creating new platforms for public debate around the UK government’s contested counter-terrorism strategy Prevent, Wellbeing and Freedom of Expression in a Prevent Culture activates Khan-Dossos’ wall paintings, contributing further to the collective production of the space.


Speakers’ biographies

Shazad Amin is Chief Executive of Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND), an organisation that tackles Islamophobia in the UK by promoting civic engagement. He recently retired as an NHS Consultant in Adult Psychiatry in Manchester. He works as a Court Expert Witness in the area of Clinical Negligence. He is also a Chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, which makes decisions about a doctors’ fitness to practise. He is a former Care Quality Commission Specialist Advisor.

Lisa Downing is Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality at the University of Birmingham. Her most recent work has been on cultural figures who embody what she has termed ‘identity category violations’ – including female murderers, female extremists, far-right women, and the ‘selfish women’ of her most recent book. She is a determinedly interdisciplinary critical humanities scholar who works especially closely with colleagues in psychiatry and cognate fields, engaging in training, collaboration, and publications with individuals and teams. She also works with creative practitioners, including a series of events and exhibitions with artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos. She is an exponent of freedom of speech and a critic of no-platforming.

Jonathan Hurlow is the chair of the Psychiatry Division of the Birmingham Medical Institute and a council member for the Birmingham Medico-Legal Society. Jonathan sits on the Professional Practice and Ethics Committee, and is a former member of the Philosophy in Psychiatry Special Interest Group executive committee at the Royal College of Psychiatry. He is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in Birmingham. He was a research officer for the 2013 All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform Inquiry into ‘Legal Highs’. He has published on the topic of the relationship between mental illness and creativity, and is married to an artist.

Basia Spalek is a Visiting Professor in Conflict Transformation at the University of Derby. She has conducted internationally renowned research on community-based approaches to countering violent extremism. Basia is also a BACP accredited therapist and works part-time for the University of Leicester Student Counselling Service. She has her own private therapy practice at She recently wrote a textbook with her brother, published by Routledge Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy. Basia supervises Counselling and Psychotherapy trainees and practitioners, and she is also a Qigong instructor.

Image credit: Navine G. Khan-Dossos, There Is No Alternative, 2019. Courtesy of the artist


Wellbeing and Freedom of Expression in a Prevent Culture is organised by Lisa Downing with Shazad Amin, Jonathan Hurlow, and Basia Spalek, in collaboration with The Showroom.

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