Mental health: the way forward. A grounded theory on the experience of mental health consumers living in the Western Australian community
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Many people with a mental disorder are desperate to improve their situations. It is therefore timely that a substantive theory on what it means to live with a mental illness in Western society is developed that explores a way forward for them. This study goes back to the grassroots and finds out from the people diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia what they say helps them. Although many studies have been carried out on the impact of mental disorders, the voice of mental health consumers has not featured prominently. This study aims to redress this in reporting on what they identify as their main concern and on how they resolve it.This thesis presents the substantive theory of transforming oneself and society to resolve life being a struggle. It is based on interviews with 35 mental health consumers living in the Western Australian community. Relevant national and international literature is also included as additional data. This study used the grounded theory method to identify a commonly shared pattern of behaviour in how participants resolved their main concern. The main concern, called the basic social psychological problem of life being a struggle, was brought on by eight disempowering conditions, which disempowered participants in both personal and social spheres. Participants then engaged in a personal struggle, including identifying their intrinsic value as a person, and their struggle with relationships. This culminated in the struggle with getting through daily life.Participants resolved the basic social psychological problem of life being a struggle through the basic social psychological process of transforming themselves. This process consisted of two stages separated by a turning point. In the first stage, participants found that neither withdrawing nor trying to get on top of having a mental disorder was successful in dealing with basic social psychological problem of life being a struggle despite their best efforts. In their powerlessness at making a difference to their lives they reached a breaking point, which became a turning point, where they were forced to confront their hopeless situation. The successful confrontation, or turning point, marked the change from their hitherto powerless position into one where participants had some power for the first time. They pinpointed this as the beginning of their transformation.In stage two of the basic social psychological process of transforming themselves, participants built up their power by deciding to tackle the struggle to identify their intrinsic value as a person first rather than focusing on trying to get on top of having a mental disorder. By refocusing on getting better as a person, participants managed to gain a new perspective, which in turn allowed them to learn new strategies and take action that made a difference in their lives. This second stage was fulfilled when participants felt at peace.However, as participants pointed out, being at peace remained fragile because the disempowering conditions that had brought on the basic social psychological problem of life being a struggle were still operating and therefore these conditions also had to be changed. Empowering conditions could achieve this in given participants sufficient power or influence and authority so that the disempowering conditions could be countenanced and then banished on a permanent basis. Participants' lives would then no longer be a struggle and they could live in peace. Participants suggested that enacting these empowering conditions would amount to transformation of society, where society treated people with a mental disorder with justice and provided effective help. In accord with other identified theories and models, the substantive theory of transforming oneself and society to resolve life being a struggle established that the transformation of society was the way forward to improve the situations of people with a mental disorder and relieve their desperation.
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