Social representations and professional knowledge: the representation of mental illness among mental health practitioners

Morant, Nicola (2006) Social representations and professional knowledge: the representation of mental illness among mental health practitioners. British Journal of Social Psychology. ISSN 0144-6665

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Abstract

The closing decades of the twentieth century saw a dramatic shift from institutional to community-based care for the mentally ill. This paper describes a study of the social representation of mental illness by mental health professionals working in Britain and France during this time of major policy change. Such professionals play a vital social role in translating policy directives into practical work with laypeople, yet their representations are relatively under-researched. Data in this study derive from semi-structured interviews on the nature of mental ill-health and mental health work conducted with a multidisciplinary sample of professionals (N=60). Consonant with community care policies, analysis suggests that professionals conceptualize mental ill-health and its treatment in social rather than medical terms. However, uncertainty characterizes many aspects of their representations. This is associated with eclectic working practices combining multiple strategies derived from diverse theoretical traditions. The changing policy context appears to have augmented this representational uncertainty. Psychodynamic perspectives are more influential amongst French practitioners compared with their British counterparts. The study highlights how social representations held by 'intermediary' groups reflect their interface between scientific and lay spheres. The role of power and the function of social representations in reconciling sources of tension and ambiguity associated with this unique social position are discussed.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Citation: Morant, N., 2006. Social representations and professional knowledge: the representation of mental illness among mental health practitioners. British Journal of Social Psychology, 45(4), pp.817-838..
Faculty: Faculty of Science & Technology
Depositing User: Mr I Walker
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2010 10:39
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2016 12:48
URI: http://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/109553

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