An exploratory study on the subjective experiences of the ex-mentally ill towards social prejudice in their rehabilitation process

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An exploratory study on the subjective experiences of the ex-mentally ill towards social prejudice in their rehabilitation process


Author: Kwan, Mei-ling
Title: An exploratory study on the subjective experiences of the ex-mentally ill towards social prejudice in their rehabilitation process
Degree: M.A.
Year: 1995
Subject: Ex-mental patients -- Rehabilitation
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Studies
Pages: vi, 90 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record:
Abstract: It is believed that community reintegration is an appropriate approach for the ex-mentally ill in their rehabilitation process. However, stigma against mental illness is common in our societies and hence public acceptance to the ex-mentally ill is far from satisfactory. Thus, this study tries to figure out the problems faced by the ex-mentally ill regarding the stigma in their rehabilitation. Moreover, this study examines the subjective interpretation of the ex-mentally ill, in particular how they manage their mental illness and the associated stigma. The researcher employed qualitative research method for this study and used in-depth interviews for data collection and analysis. Eight ex-mentally ill were invited to participate and to discuss their subjective experiences in their rehabilitation process. It was revealed that the ex-mentally ill were aware of the public prejudice and hence had shadowed their mental illness in order not to be stigmatised. As a result of this secrecy strategy, they seldom engaged in direct discrimination and did not consider the degree of stigmatisation as serious. However, they did not notice the effect of their felt stigma which actually originated from their mental illness. In order to uncover the effect of the felt stigma, the researcher turned to the origin of felt stigma and questioned how the ex-mentally ill perceive and manage their mental illness. It was discovered that the ex-mentally ill were sensitive towards their mental illness and aware of their differences between them and the ordinary people. The main differences lay on their unstable mental state. Moreover, their mental illness paralysed their working capabilities and hence deprived them of their earning power. Thus, they accepted their weakness and held a devalued status. In an attempt to sustain their working lives as ordinary people, they not only forced themselves to have drug compliance, but also drove themselves to learn various coping strategies such as relaxation skills. They believed that the most proper way to manage their mental illness was to 'normalise' themselves. The effect of the felt stigma was that they kept on asserting themselves with reference to ordinary people without questioning its appropriateness. They assigned for themselves an unobtainable standard and kept on feeling incapable. They requested themselves to change, to 'normalise', and to conform to the societal values. It reflected that normalisation concept had a great impact on the ex-mentally ill. With respect to the subjective experiences of the ex-mentally ill, normalisation did not remove the effect of stigmatisation but intensified their devalued status and maintained the felt stigma. Based on the findings, the researcher draws a couple of implications upon both theoretical and practical levels of the existing community rehabilitation programmes for the ex-mentally ill. Besides, existing policies to solve the problems of stigma such as public education programmes and disability discrimination bill are also discussed.

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