Individual Meanings, Co-Constructing Narratives of Identity and Community in Journeys with Schizophrenia
McNeill, Devan Mark Joseph
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Through my previous journey as a recreation therapist in the mental health field I enabled a dominant narrative that favoured outcomes, independence, and pathological identities. I also envisioned community to be the ideal setting for persons with schizophrenia. Upon reflection, the communities I worked in were institutions without walls (McKnight, 1995). In this narrative study, I used critical thought to shed light on understandings of identity and community for people who experience schizophrenia and explore how dominate narratives segregate people living in community. The purpose of this critical narrative study was to explore identity and community for three persons with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. Guiding the purpose are three research questions: What dominant cultural narratives play out in participants’ communities? How do those narratives constrain participants’ identities and positions in community? How do persons take up or challenge these constructions in their own narrative of self? The narratives consisted of an audio-recorded conversation and continued through community walk-a-bouts with each participant. A personal reflexive journal guided me through the research process before, during, and after meeting my participants. The narratives told a different side to the experiences had with schizophrenia than previously held. The three narratives brought forth counternarratives to notions of power, control, and dependency. The narratives presented resilience against defective identities and stigma. The findings suggest a lack of accessible resources and communication that exist in “ideal communities.” Further exploration of peer advocacy and participatory action research would be of benefit for future research.