Dr Cristian Montenegro
I’m a health sociologist specialising in mental health policy, with a focus on Latin America. I'm a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter. I also serve as an adjunct researcher at the Millennium Institute for Research on Depression and Personality (MIDAP), Chile.
My research areas include mental health and human rights, psychiatric deinstitutionalisation and reform, and service-user engagement and co-production in mental health policies. I am also interested in decolonising global mental health practice and education. Over my career, I've secured over USD 1 million as a principal investigator, receiving support from organisations like the Wellcome Trust, the London School of Economics, and the National Research and Development Agency in Chile.
At the University of Exeter, I've led modules on "Engaged and activist publics" and "Colonial encounters and health research” (MA Cultures and Environments of Health). At Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, I've led modules in different schools including Nursing, Public Health and Psychology, focusing on areas like transcultural health, qualitative health research and mental health promotion. I’ve been an invited lecturer at the London School of Economics, University College London, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Groningen University, City University of London and Universidad de Chile.
I have enriched my understanding of mental health policy through various advisory roles. I've advised the Chilean Ministry of Health, where I helped establish the first Civil Society Advisory Council in Mental Health. I've been part of the WHO's World Mental Health Advisory Committee from 2020 to 2022 and more recently collaborated with PAHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, on work around human rights in mental health facilities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
I co-founded the Platform for Social Research in Mental Health in Latin America (PLASMA) in 2016. Since 2022, I've been an active member of the Centre for Mental Health, Human Rights, and Social Justice at the University of Essex. I'm also part of RedeAmericas, an initiative established by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health to expand regional mental health research.
I was recently awarded the Wellcome Trust's Career Development Award to lead "The Ethics and Politics of Psychiatric Deinstitutionalization in South America" (EPPDISA). This 4-year, international project aims to transform our understanding of psychiatric reform by examining its ethical and political dimensions in South America, specifically focusing on Brazil and Chile. Drawing on history, sociology and international policy studies, psychiatric reform will be studied as a situated political and ethical project, envisioned, and implemented within changing political contexts and confronting policymakers and practitioners with complex dilemmas around freedom, autonomy, and coercion. The project involves partnerships with the Instituto de Medicina Social – Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro and the Escuela de Salud Pública, Universidad de Chile, and seeks to historicise global mental health, acknowledging how therapeutic innovations, normative agendas, and policy ideas have travelled in the past and opening the potential for multidirectional learning across regions and times.
My long-term ambition is to widen the social sciences and humanities' engagement with psychiatric practices, moving beyond a Euro-American focus to explore developments in the global south.