Surviving, thriving and being outside: applying the capabilities approach to reconceptualise the social justice experiences of people with mental distress

Brunner, Richard (2015) Surviving, thriving and being outside: applying the capabilities approach to reconceptualise the social justice experiences of people with mental distress. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The empirical evidence associating people with mental distress and social injustice is unequivocal. This thesis offers a least reductive, structured qualitative exploration of how different social justice outcomes for people in this social group happen. To achieve this the study explores whether and how the capabilities approach can be applied to provide a normative means of explaining the social justice experiences of people with mental distress. It does this through conducting and analysing individual interviews with twenty-two people living in Glasgow who have recent in-patient experience of psychiatric hospital, sixteen participants being interviewed twice. The interviews are framed by combining concepts from the capabilities approach with relevant sociological literature, seeking to: understand the relationship between personal, social and structural factors affecting lived experiences; consider the character of social justice experienced and conceptualise this using concepts from the capabilities approach; take a critical realist approach to understanding how social justice experiences may be produced and reproduced; pursue these aims with regard to both values-based research principles from the survivor-influenced literature and participation principles from the capabilities approach. By critically interpreting empirical data using capabilities concepts and sociological concepts, the analysis is able to combine what had been two separate fields of study (Holmwood, 2013) and provide an original interpretation of how social injustice tends to be reproduced. The substantive findings explain how different social justice outcomes for people with mental distress are shaped by living with mental distress, experiencing the psychiatric system, and living in society. Although participants tend to have characteristics of ‘surviving’, or living with ongoing social injustice, a minority have characteristics of thriving. Some participants within both characteristic groups also experience ‘being outside’ dominant social norms. Methodologically the study demonstrates that concepts central to capabilities such as Conversion Factors and the domains approach can be operationalised to explain social justice outcomes for this social group, adding to and critiquing these concepts in the process. Theoretically, the thesis proposes a nascent critical capabilities model of mental distress, reinforcing the compatibility between the capabilities approach and critical realism, so providing a further contribution to the sociology of mental distress.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from The Economic and Social Research Council through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science health pathway.
Keywords: Capabilities approach, mental distress, qualitative, social justice, critical realism, Scotland.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Funder's Name: Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: Watson, Professor Nick and Stalker, Professor Kirsten
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Mr Richard Brunner
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7166
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2016 15:24
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2016 08:58
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7166
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