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A subjective exploration of the mental illness experience, the storytelling process, and current approaches to mental health and illness
Flores, Maria Guadalupe
Sobo, ElisaMalcarne, Vanessa
Each individual living with a mental health condition experiences life uniquely despite the sameness suggested by universal labels (e.g. “mentally ill”) and are reinforced by a strict biomedical approach. To better understand the diverse elements shaping the subjective experiences of mental illness and which remain ill-captured by diagnosis tools, I undertook a qualitative examination of the illness narratives of persons formally diagnosed with a mental health condition. Volunteers from the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s local San Diego chapter, who serve as speakers for the organization’s stigma-reducing programs, were interviewed concerning their “recovery journeys,” which they share as stories with the programs’ audiences. I explored the therapeutic impact of participating in the programs Ending the Silence and In Our Own Voice, in particular the storytelling involved, on the speakers. Informed by Grounded Theory, three stages of interviews and non-participant observations took place over the course of four months. My analysis revealed a series of themes that are influential in shaping mental illness experiences and recovery outcomes, including identity, social expectations, and stigma. Moreover, storytelling aided the speakers in processing, normalizing, and coping with mental illness experiences. The study aims to provide a deeper understanding of the subjective experience of mental illness and to highlight the importance of narrative in behavioral health practice and its ability to inform and complement psychiatric care and decisions.
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2017
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