Explanatory models for mental ill-health shape how patients view themselves and their problems, potentially reducing or increasing self-stigma. Previous research on stigma and causal explanations for mental illness has been mostly quantitative and/or experimental. This body of research has mostly considered explanations as either ‘psychosocial’ or ‘biomedical’, ignoring the complex ways in which explanations are communicated, framed, and interpreted, and removing explanations from the social interaction in which stigma is enacted (Goffman, 1963).
The proposed study intends to explore the communication of causal explanations and their role in constructing patient self-narratives. Since professional-patient interactions provide an ideal space in which to explore how causal explanations shape patient identities, observations and audio-recordings of diagnostic and therapeutic consultations within a number of mental health sites will be conducted. In addition, semi-structured interviews will further explore how professional explanations are interpreted by patients. The following questions will be addressed:
How are explanations for mental ill-health communicated in professional-patient interactions and how are they interpreted by patients?
How do professional explanations for mental ill-health shape patients’ understandings of themselves and their problems?