Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis presents an updated study of the social world of the mental patient as he/she subjectively experiences it within a Canadian psychiatric setting. Adopting a symbolic interactionist perspective, specifically a labelling approach to the study of mental illness, this thesis examines the 'moral career' of the mental patient. Objectively, this study focuses on some of the processes by which an individual is segregated, labelled, and subsequently treated as mentally ill. Subjectively, this research examines the manner in which an individual's self-identity is transformed upon hospitalization through various stripping procedures, and how he/she, through institutional processing, is forced to adopt a new definition of self as 'mentally ill'--a social identity that may subsequently lead to the person's stigmatization by society. The findings, in support of previous reasearch, indicated that during the pre-patient phase of their moral careers individuals often undergo experiences which they conceive as alienating and treacherous in nature. Moreover, this study also found that although in-patients are subjected to more 'humane' treatment than in the past, they are still subjected to various institutional procedures which serve to strip the person of his/her former identity and force the person to adopt this new identity of mental patient. Although this study is restricted to the general and exploratory level, it provides a contribution to our understanding of the processes and consequences of institutionalization on the self-images and identities of mental patients and toward the formulation of a comprehensive sociological theory of mental illness in general.
Herman, Nancy J., "The Making of a Mental Patient: An Ethnographic Study of the Processes and Consequences of Institutionalization on Patient Self-Images and Identities" (1981). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5592.
McMaster University Library