24 J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare 77 (1997)
Personal Narrative and the Social Reconstruction of the Lives of Former Psychiatric Patients

handle is hein.journals/jrlsasw24 and id is 251 raw text is: Personal Narrative And The Social
Reconstruction Of The Lives
Of Former Psychiatric Patients
ROBIN M. GILMARTIN
This study explores ways in which high-functioning former patients in-
tegrate the experience of prior psychiatric hospitalization into their lives
and find meaning from that event. The narratives of two individuals are
presented and discussed in relation to social role theory, social construc-
tionism, and labeling theory. The narratives underscore that the process of
integrating and making meaning of important life events such as psychi-
atric hospitalization occur within a social context. Understanding mental
illness and psychiatric hospitalization in familial, social, and political terms
was instrumental in helping these individuals to reconstruct personal
narratives in order to overcome shame and internalized stigma and to
integrate their experiences in meaningful ways.
This paper explores ways in which high-functioning former
psychiatric patients integrate the experience of psychiatric hos-
pitalization into their lives and find meaning from that event.
In a broader sense, it illustrates the importance of narrative in
enabling individuals to reconstruct critical life events so that they
can become meaningful experiences. As a non-normative event,
psychiatric hospitalization (the critical event of primary focus
here) presents problems and challenges for ex-patients because of
the fact that mental illness is often stigmatizing, particularly if it
results in hospitalization. As such, it may significantly affect how
others regard or behave towards the former patient, the former
patient's perceptions of how others regard or treat him or her, and
finally the ex-patient's own self-concept and understanding, all
of which may be intricately and complexly connected. Formerly
hospitalized individuals must somehow negotiate or redefine
themselves within the context of family, social networks, and
Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, June, 1997, Volume XXIV, Number 2
77

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