IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/socmed/v107y2014icp1-8.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Stigma, agency and recovery amongst people with severe mental illness

Author

Listed:
  • Whitley, Rob
  • Denise Campbell, Rosalyn

Abstract

Evidence suggests that people with a severe mental illness still suffer high levels of stigma and discrimination. However little is known about how people with a severe mental illness manage such stigma. As such, the overall aim of this study is to document and analyze behavioral and psychological strategies of stigma management and control in a sample of people in recovery from a severe mental illness. To meet this aim, we conducted a five-year (2008–2012) qualitative longitudinal study in Washington D.C. Participants were recruited from small-scale congregate housing units (‘recovery communities’) for people in recovery, provided by a public mental health agency. We conducted regular focus groups at these communities, augmented by in-depth participant observation. Analysis was propelled by the grounded theory approach. A key finding of this study is that stigma and discrimination were not perceived as commonly experienced problems by participants. Instead, stigma and discrimination were perceived as omnipresent potential problems to which participants remained eternally vigilant, taking various preventive measures. Most notable among these measures was a concerted and self-conscious effort to behave and look ‘normal’; through dress, appearance, conduct and demeanor. In this endeavor, participants possessed and deployed a considered degree of agency to prevent, avoid or preempt stigma and discrimination. These efforts appeared to have a strong semiotic dimension, as participants reported their developing ‘normality’ (and increased agentic power) was tangible proof of their ongoing recovery. Participants also routinely discussed severe mental illness in normative terms, noting its similarity to physical illnesses such as diabetes, or to generic mental health problems experienced by all. These behavioral and psychological strategies of normalization appeared to be consolidated within the recovery communities, which provided physical shelter and highly-valued peer support. This fostered participants' ability to face and embrace the outside world with confidence, pride and dignity.

Suggested Citation

  • Whitley, Rob & Denise Campbell, Rosalyn, 2014. "Stigma, agency and recovery amongst people with severe mental illness," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 1-8.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:107:y:2014:i:c:p:1-8
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.02.010
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953614001075
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Halpern, David, 1993. "Minorities and mental health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 597-607, March.
    2. Whitley, Rob & Prince, Martin, 2005. "Fear of crime, mobility and mental health in inner-city London, UK," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(8), pages 1678-1688, October.
    3. Schulze, Beate & Angermeyer, Matthias C., 2003. "Subjective experiences of stigma. A focus group study of schizophrenic patients, their relatives and mental health professionals," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 299-312, January.
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1999:89:9:1328-1333_0 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Baert, Stijn & De Visschere, Sarah & Schoors, Koen & Vandenberghe, Désirée & Omey, Eddy, 2016. "First depressed, then discriminated against?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 247-254.
    2. repec:eee:socmed:v:182:y:2017:i:c:p:73-80 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:196:y:2018:i:c:p:209-215 is not listed on IDEAS

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:107:y:2014:i:c:p:1-8. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/315/description#description .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.