Mental ill-health and experiences of work in a ‘working community’ in Scotland

Martin, Eleanor Nichola (2021) Mental ill-health and experiences of work in a ‘working community’ in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Within capitalist societies, active participation in paid employment is often considered an indicator of good mental health and wellbeing. Many support services for individuals with diagnoses of severe and enduring mental health conditions are focused around assisting these individuals to attain and retain paid employment. Despite this, in 2019 only 28.5% of individuals categorised as having a diagnosis of a ‘mental illness or other nervous disorder’ were in paid employment in the UK. This thesis explores the experiences of work and employment for individuals who have a diagnosis of a mental health condition and attended a ‘working community’ service in Scotland. This working community encourages its service users to participate in ‘meaningful work’ and prepare for entering paid employment in order for these individuals to achieve ‘mental health recovery’. I explore the space of the working community as an alternative to other welfare-to-work and supported employment approaches. Enlisting an emancipatory epistemology that aims to privilege the voices of individuals with diagnoses of mental health conditions, in this thesis I present a detailed account of the space of the working community and the experiences of those working within it. Utilising a qualitative multi-method research approach, I collected data through a year-long, in-depth ethnography as an observant participant in conjunction with semi-structured interviews and documentary analysis. I engage with literature from the geographies of mental health and beyond to conceptualise ‘community’ and ‘care’ and am informed by mad studies and critical disability studies to challenge exclusionary narratives of ‘mental health recovery’ which infer that obtaining paid employment inevitably improves mental wellbeing. This thesis offers a careful consideration of both the positive and negative aspects of work and employment for individuals with diagnoses of mental health conditions and examines the issues faced by these individuals in finding and keeping paid employment within a neoliberal society in which their potential productive capacity is undervalued. Through this, I contribute empirically to the geographies of mental health by adding a detailed ethnographic account of a space of work for individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions, and conceptually through providing a critical consideration of the term ‘recovery’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Parr, Professor Hester and McGeachan, Dr. Cheryl
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82372
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2021 15:27
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2022 09:26
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82372

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