Psychiatric Selves: Managing Disorder in Community Mental Health

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Psychiatric Selves: Managing Disorder in Community Mental Health

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This dissertation examines the aftermath of psychiatric emergency among a group of young adults who were hospitalized with severe symptoms of mental illness. I trace the experience of this cohort of young people over time as they prepare to leave psychiatric rehabilitation facilities in Minnesota and transition into a variety of independent community living arrangements. My aim in conducting this research was to understand how the encounter with psychiatric knowledge in rehabilitative settings causes people to reconsider the ways in which they engage in processes of self-fashioning and reconceptualize the possibilities for personhood as they make their way toward a future that they expect to be punctuated by the unpredictable occurrence of symptoms of chronic mental illness. I argue that community rehabilitation facilities function as key sites for psychiatric subjectification where the objective status of diagnostic categories and discourses of chronic risk are addressed through a series of illness management activities that emphasize ethical self-governance intended to produce a form of personhood characterized by independence, autonomy, productivity and self-determination; this is a fraught process that is unsettled by the divergence between diagnosis and lived experience. In addition, individualistic conceptualizations of community recovery obscure the challenges of living with mental illness inherent in the structurally-vulnerable socioeconomic positions that many participants occupy, and I find that the methods through which people conceive of meaningful ways of being are bound up with everyday struggles and negotiations over relatedness and social belonging in their local worlds.



University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.August 2018. Major: Anthropology. Advisors: Karen Ho, David Lipset. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 253 pages.

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Doyle-Walton, Thomas. (2018). Psychiatric Selves: Managing Disorder in Community Mental Health. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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