James Killen is a third year PhD candidate whose research looks at the mental health of human rights defenders who are persecuted by their government. In particular, his research focusses on the State use of lawfare, its psychological effect, and methods used to address the social and mental health consequences of this persecution in groups of defenders whose civil and political rights have been restricted. His research is exploring the informal psychiatric support that can be given in geographically dispersed networks of defenders who are otherwise isolated from their peers, and the impact of social and cultural factors in terms of understanding of mental ill-health and help seeking behaviour. His work is exploring these issues using the novel framework of Moral Injury; looking to understand the potential of this framework’s utility in future understanding, and support, of psychological trauma in human rights defenders.
James was previously a Captain in the British Army working in mental health departments of the Defence Medical Services. He has both treated patients and been in management roles in departments; working in the UK, Germany and deploying on operations in Afghanistan. He holds an LLM (Ebor) in International Human Rights Law and Practice. His dissertation compared the barriers to mental health care in populations of military personnel and human rights defenders – drawing out common themes regarding attitudes to mental health, stigma and organisational approaches employed to address these barriers.
James is supervised by Martin Jones.