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Title: Psychiatric survivors and narratives of activism
Author: Buhagiar, Jonathan Paul Marek
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2013
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Despite there being a substantial history of survivors challenging psychiatry, there has been little attention paid to the lives of these individuals. The literature has primarily focussed upon ‘recovery’ and the development of typologies of emotional distress. Whilst the focus upon people’s individual experience is to be welcomed, the literature has tended to background the causes to which survivors have committed part of their lives. The aim of this study was to explore the ‘journeys’ of survivors into activism to challenge psychiatry. The project drew upon a social constructionist epistemology and narrative theory. Nine interviews were conducted with survivors with a history of involvement in activism. A dialogic/performative analysis was used to explore issues of identity construction amongst the participants. The analysis is presented as ‘case studies’ in order to try to capture the complexity of each person’s narrative. The discussion section then brings each of these narratives together. It is argued that the participants’ narratives shared common characteristics and reflected the narratives of the collective of which participants were a part, the wider survivor movement as well as dominant societal narratives. However, the way in which participants drew upon these narratives differed both within and across the accounts. Variations were apparent regarding the ways in which participants’ narratives contested psychiatry. A personal and moral construction of activism featured heavily, with participants positioning themselves as both individuals with experience of the psychiatric system and as citizens. This project highlights the need for understandings which take into account the complexity of people’s lives, and their wider collective and social context. Recommendations include raising awareness about survivor groups/networks without co-opting their practices. Furthermore, this study attests to the need to take up issues of power and inequality, and their impact on people’s lives, in research and clinical practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral