'Listen to my madness': understanding the experiences of people with serious mental illness

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This article explores the salience of disability theory for understanding the experiences of people with serious mental illness. Drawing on data from a focus group study, we suggest that users experience both impairment (as embodied irrationality) which can, in itself, be oppressive, and also have to manage their lives within a largely disabling society. We outline some of the strategies adopted by users to manage their situation and ensure they access and receive health services, and illustrate how these are a result of the complex relationship between disability and impairment. We suggest that using a framework of the social model of disability provides a useful way of understanding and making sense of the experience of users with serious mental illness.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-669
Number of pages21
JournalSociology of health and illness
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


  • serious mental illness, disability, impairment, embodied irrationality

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