Friday Factoid: Severe Mental Illness: A Close and Personal Perspective

Generally speaking, persons who suffer from mental illness oftentimes perceive themselves similar to the way they are seen in their respective environments. Therefore, listening to their narratives and hearing their perspective on personal experiences is likely to increase our understanding of the complexity of their illness (as cited in Vila, Pallisera, & Fullana, 2016).

Interestingly, health and social science research has placed increasing value on the views and experiences as told by individuals with mental illness (as cited in Vila et al., 2016). One such study conducted by Kinn, Holgersen, Borg, and Fjaer (2011) provided participants with the opportunity to explore themselves, their daily life, and their work potential. A few major themes emerged during the study, including “all it takes to have a life, being on the right track, and asking for feedback” (Kinn et al., 2011).

In another case study, Thompson et al., (2008) found that individuals suffering from severe mental illness (SMI) especially highlighted the need to feel productive, enhance their self-esteem, feel that they are of value, feel listened to, jokingly interact with others, and experience physical and emotional safety. These needs were directly related to participants’ existing personal supports (i.e., family and/or professional) (Thompson et al., 2008). Similarly, Wahl found that persons with SMI who experienced discrimination and stigma associated with their symptoms, tended to cope better when advocating and speaking out against the judgments and negative perceptions they encountered (as cited in Vila et al., 2016).


Kinn, L. G., Holgersen, H., Borg, M., & Svanaug, F. (2011). Being Candidates in a transitional vocational course: Experiences of self, everyday life, and work potentials. Disability & Society, 26(4), 433-448. doi: 10.1080/09687599.2011.567795

Thompson, N. C., Hunter, E. E., Murray, L., Ninci, L., Rolfs, E. M., & Pallikkathayil, L. (2008). The experience of living with chronic mental illness: A photovoice study. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 44(1), 14-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2008.00143x

Vila, M., Pallisera, M., & Fullana, J. (2016). Exploring the present and projecting the future: People with severe mental illness speaking for themselves. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 29(9), 1118-1130. doi: 10.1080/09518398.2016.1201164

Shirreka Mackay, LPC
WKPIC Pre-Doctoral Practicum Student

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