'Mad, bad and dangerous to know': exploring the everyday spaces of older, mental health service users

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The area of mental health distress is one that crosses many disciplines including; psychiatry, critical psychiatry, psychology, critical psychology, history, politics, economics, philosophy, sociology, culture and human geographies (Thrift, 2006). Consequently, there are a complex set of issues to consider when discussing the experiences of being a mental health service user. Notwithstanding this diversity, such representations of mental health have a tendency to position service users as a fairly homogenous and static group of bodies – in other words, they are the stable ‘other’ (Conradson, 2005; Parr, 2000). As a way of exploring the complexity, this thesis sets out to explore the multiplex constituents and heterogeneous ways in which daily service user life is played out within everyday mental health spatial contexts. These spaces incorporate the psychiatric institution, the mental health day centre and the home. Using interviews, ethnography, poetry and visual ethnographies, service users’ experiences are analysed by exploring the relational aspects of the discursive and the non-discursive, such as receiving a diagnostic label and subsequent treatments and the ways in which these practices permeate the embodied and spatial experiences of every day service user life. This corpus of research data suggests that rather than the experiences of mental health distress operating as a stratified set of factors awaiting analysis, there were divergent accounts incorporating positivity, negativity and ambivalence in the ways which service users made meanings of their daily lives (Brown & Tucker, 2010). Consequently, this thesis is framed around the ontological realms of creativity, potentiality and of becoming within and through space (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004; Massumi, 2002). Finally, some implications of the current political changes and how these may impact upon daily service user life are discussed to highlight that mental health service users’ are always on the move.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorIan M Tucker (Supervisor)

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