Authors: Richard Schweizer
Event: 2017 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Research & Evaluation Informing Practice,Lived Experience, Recovery
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: People with severe mental illness often develop “illness narratives” that help them understand or make sense of their illness (Bury, 2001; Williams 1984).
The presenter, a researcher with lived experience of mental ill-health, interviewed twelve people diagnosed with schizophrenia as part of a University of Sydney doctoral study. The study focused broadly on issues of rebuilding and maintaining identity after a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Findings relating to the development of illness narratives will be presented at TheMHS.
Illness narratives turn the experience of mental illness into a story that might be told by sufferers to relatives, friends, or mental health professionals. This story typically describes the sufferer’s pathological experience and plots his or her illness trajectory towards well-being. These stories can be important tools in helping the sufferer understand and grasp the meaning of their experience with schizophrenia, as well as healing the biographical disruption of the illness. At the same time, these stories can bear witnesses to reversals or relapses in a sufferer’s condition; there would seem to be a variety of possible narratives amongst respondents.
Illness narratives sometimes place less emphasis on the sufferer’s official diagnosis, and more on their personal understanding and explanatory models. Helping people diagnosed with schizophrenia develop their own personal illness narratives may be an integral part of their recovery journey.
Learning Objective 1: People in the audience will gain a better understanding of the ways people diagnosed with schizophrenia can understand and make sense of their illness experience.
Learning Objective 2: The topic of illness narratives is important because helping those living with the diagnosis of schizophrenia to develop such narratives may have a positive impact on their self-esteem and recovery.
Bury, M. (2001). Illness Narratives: Fact or Fiction?. Sociology of Health and Illness. 23(3), 263-285
Williams, G. (1984). The Genesis of Chronic Illness: Narrative Reconstruction. Sociology of Health and
Illness. 6(2), 175-200