When Madness Meets Madness: Insider Reflections on Doing Mental Health Research
International Journal of Qualitative Methods , Volume 18
Insider–outsider relations in qualitative research have been heavily studied. Yet there is a dearth in the literature exploring how people who have experienced madness produce knowledge and overcome trying circumstances when they do qualitative mental health research with other survivors. This article fills this gap through a critical reflection on my experiences with psychosis and involuntary hospitalization and how they shaped dialogue with my participants. Situated within a narrative framework of inquiry, I reveal how self-disclosure and critical forms of relationality during interviews with 10 psychiatric survivors produced a survivor-centered knowledge that nuances biomedical understandings of mental illness and the mental health system. Practices of self-disclosure revealed how survivors and I had to navigate familial expectations as we recovered and tried to regain a sense of identity. Doing insider research also helped me overcome the periods of embarrassment and stigma in my psychosis, as I learned through critical dialogue how traumatic events can provide unique avenues for intense self-reflection and the development of greater empathy for mental health survivors. I also discuss some of the ethical concerns and limitations of having an insider status in qualitative mental health research, and how self-disclosure may present certain epistemological challenges in the research process.
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Johnston, M.S. (Matthew S.). (2019). When Madness Meets Madness: Insider Reflections on Doing Mental Health Research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 18. doi:10.1177/1609406919835356