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Durham e-Theses
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Mental distress and stigma: exploring the significance of interactions in the context of support provision

ARMSTRONG, VICTORIA,EMMA (2016) Mental distress and stigma: exploring the significance of interactions in the context of support provision. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Reducing stigma and discrimination encountered by people who experience mental distress is a policy objective of the British government’s current mental health strategy. This strategy considers third sector organisations providing support to people who experience mental distress to have a responsibility for, and a role in, stigma and discrimination reduction. The study takes a case study approach involving two third sector organisations in the North East of England; participant observation over the course of 6 months, 30 semi-structured interviews with staff and members, and 6 focus groups also involving staff and members. It is this combination of methods and the location of the study which makes this contemporary empirical study on stigma and discrimination relating to mental distress and support, and its contribution to knowledge, original. The research explores, describes, and analyses members’ experiences of stigma and discrimination, and staff and members’ experience of providing, performing, and receiving support. The study not only explores experiences of stigma and discrimination but also focuses on interactions in the support environment. Particularly by considering how relationships fostered in the support context of the organisations contribute to support which members describe as relatively free from stigmatising interactions. Employing a predominantly interactionist analysis of the empirical material, the findings indicate that the notion of ‘proximity’ of actors in the support environment is integral to deepening our understanding of stigma and relationships deemed by members as ‘supportive’. Exploring the wider socio-political context in which support is performed highlights how aspects of the stigma discourse continue to be individualised via the paradoxical attribution of ‘self-stigma’ by some staff members- despite the ‘hidden labour’ of many members. However, and as identified by this study, the ways in which staff ‘work’ to reduce the distance that members are ‘set apart’ or ‘distanced’ seems to be a significant contributing factor to truncating the scope for stigmatising interactions in the context of the case study organisations.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Applied Social Sciences, School of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Feb 2016 15:58

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