The familiar stranger of mental health

Long, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-9648-629X, 2020. The familiar stranger of mental health. Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice. ISSN 1755-6228

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Purpose: The paper contributes to the debate about the closure of institutional mental health care facilities, from an experiential perspective of a former mental health inpatient, ongoing service user and campaigner for retention of such facilties. It argues that auto-ethnographic accounts of mental illness by those with multiple social identities can have a greater role in terms of future training of mental health care professionals.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper offers an experiential account of the impact of mental health facility bed closures as (a) a patient admitted to institutional mental health facilities; (b) as a mental health campaigner, fighting for the provision of both places of safety and 'safe space' within his own local community and (c) as an ongoing service user. The research is in the interpretivist tradition of social science in taking an autoethnographical methodological stance.

Findings: The paper is underpinned by two key theoretical notions. Firstly, Stuart Hall's concept of the 'Familiar Stranger' (2017) is used to explore the tensions of self-identity as the author uncomfortably between his three-fold statuses. Secondly the notion of 'ontological insecurity' offered by Giddens (1991) is utilised with the paper exploring the paradox that admission to a mental health so-called 'place of safety' is in fact itself a disorientating experience for both patient and carer(s).

Research limitations/implications: No positivistic claims to reliability, representativeness or generalisability cab be made. It is the authenticity of the account which the reader feels should be afforded primacy in terms of its original contribution to knowledge.

Practical implications: The paper should have practical utility for those tasked with developing educational and training curriculums for professionals across the mental health care sector.

Social implications: The paper implicitly assesses the political wisdom of the policy of mental health bed closures within the wider context of the deinstitutionalisation movement.

Originality/value: This paper is underpinned by original experiential accounts.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Creators: Long, M.
Publisher: Emerald
Date: 29 April 2020
ISSN: 1755-6228
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 01 May 2020 10:50
Last Modified: 05 May 2020 10:35

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