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The Palgrave Handbook of Adult Mental Health


Author: Michelle O'Reilly and Jessica Nina Lester

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan


Publish Date: June 3, 2016

ISBN-10: 1137496843

Pages: 704

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Aims and objectives of the book

The Palgrave Handbook of Adult Mental Health: Discourse and Conversation Studies is a co-edited volume that brings together empirical and theoretical chapters that examine the broad issue of adult mental health in the context of discourse and conversation studies. The empirical chapters of the Handbook focus on the interactions of adults with mental health conditions, their practitioners, and/or their families, while the theoretical chapters critically assess the dominant discourses of mental illness and offer alternative ways of conceiving the related, pertinent issues. The contributors draw upon data from a variety of contexts to illustrate the varied ways in which language as action can assist us in better understanding the discursive and everyday conversational practices that surround adult mental health.

In order to examine the performative nature of interaction, two languagebased approaches to analysis are pertinent to this volume. Conversation and discourse analysis are useful, related approaches for the study of mental health conditions, particularly when underpinned by a social constructionist framework (Harper, 1995). Conversation and discourse research illustrates how psychopathological categories are not labels that point to an existing entity; rather, they are constructs produced within specific socio-historical conditions (Georgaca, 2012). In the field of mental health, the use of these two approaches is growing, with emergent implications for adults with mental health conditions, their practitioners, and/or their families. As such, in this volume, we synthesise contemporary research that uses and theorises these analytical approaches for the study of adult mental health. From theoretical discussions of concepts and language that surround adult mental health pathology to empirically driven chapters with an exploration of particular interactions, the contributors included in this volume adopt a critical position to the study of adult mental health, while also highlighting the practical implications.

Why a handbook now?

The World Health Organization (WHO) (2001) reported that one in four people are affected by a mental health condition, with approximately 450 million people worldwide believed to be experiencing mental health disorders. Indeed, there are a multitude of labels and clinical descriptions available to describe the lives of adults thought to be suffering from mental health disorders, with most of these labels linked to diagnostic protocols and official manuals. For instance, both the International Classification of Diseases of the WHO and the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association provide language for describing the everyday performances of adults believed to have mental health disorders, with some scholars noting that the meanings attached to explain ‘abnormal’ behaviours ultimately determine one’s past, present, and future (Crowe, 2000).We suggest, then, that the way in which adult mental health disorders are conceived of in everyday encounters, and ultimately talked about, have great consequence.

While we recently developed and published The Palgrave Handbook of Child Mental Health: Discourse and Conversation Studies, at present no volume exists that brings together work focused on adult mental health disorders and discourse and conversation analysis. There is also minimal work that links the everyday practices surrounding adult mental health and discourse and conversation analysis perspectives. Perhaps more significantly, there is even less work that seeks to offer practical, clinical insights positioned at the interaction of adult mental healthcare and discourse and conversation analysis. We argue that this volume, then, is both timely and needed, particularly as the number of individuals diagnosed with mental health disorders persists and raises important questions about care, clinical practice, and society more generally.

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