Too Much Information: Agency and Disruptions of Power in Personal Narratives of Mental Illness and Suffering
AuthorLee, Jessica Nalani Oi Jun
AdvisorLicona, Adela C.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHealing in the mental health system of the 21st century is difficult as the credibility of mental health users is constantly called into question, their experiences and perceptions of their "illness" undervalued or even completely ignored. This attitude towards mental health users must be changed in order to work towards truly alleviating mental illness and suffering. Careful analysis of the rhetoric of published personal narratives written by women describing their experiences with mental healthcare reveals the ways in which medical knowledge is created, owned, and disseminated only by the “authoritative expert,” defined as healthcare professionals who categorize, taxonomize, and pathologize in order to treat both physical and mental illness. I argue the authoritative expert marginalizes the "everyday expert," exemplified through the perceptions of women who, in their narratives, record realities that do not always match the diagnoses and prognoses assigned to them by their healthcare providers. My project's central question asks: In what ways do personal narratives of mental illness and suffering illuminate the ways in which language constructs reality? My research illuminates the ways in which narratives of mental illness and suffering are healing, and thus serves as an advocate for patient rights, both by empowering patients and by furthering discussion among medical professionals regarding problematizing "standard" treatment. My work advances the connection between politics and language as it takes a commonly undervalued form of language and lived experience--narrative--and researches the ways in which it has been and can continue to be used as a powerful political agent to empower mental health users by giving them a voice. Specifically, I demonstrate how patients' personal experiences should and can be valued as a way to illuminate their own understanding of their disease as well as to inform their treatment. This project lays the foundation for future research examining ways treatment for mental illness should be differentiated from treatment for physical illness. I am interested in ways to further combat the stigma of mental illness by looking at ways providers can honor and respect the opinions and values of mental health patients in non-pejorative ways.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English