Mad studies and social work: Conceptualising the subjectivities of service user/survivors who experience significant mental health problems

Stephen J Macdonald, Anne Charnock, Jane Scutt

Abstract


This article draws on contemporary and classical psycho–political theorists to conceptualise ‘mental illness’ as a social construct. The research employs a Mad Studies and anti-psychiatry perspective to reframe ‘mental illness’ from an individualised pathological defect to a socially constructed reality (Foucault, 1967; Menzies et al., 2013). The study applies a qualitative biographical methodology to analyse the subjectivities of people with severe mental health problems, their family members and mental health practitioners. In this study, once individuals were conceptualised as pathologically ‘ill’ they were then medicated and often institutionalised as a form of ‘treatment’. The findings present a theoretical analysis of participants’ subjectivities to examine historic and contemporary psychiatric practices. The article will conclude by discussing how Mad Studies can offer social work practice an alternative theoretical standpoint to conceptualise ‘mental illness’ as a social rather than a pathological phenomenon.

Keywords: mad studies; anti-psychiatry movement; ‘mental illness’; biographical methodology; institutionalisation; medicalisation; family

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1921/swssr.v19i3.1193

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