Not talking about illness at meeting places in Norwegian community mental health care: A discourse analysis of silence concerning illness-talk.

Research paper by Lill Susann LS Ynnesdal Haugen, Vegard V Haugland, Andreas A Envy, Marit M Borg, Tor-Johan TJ Ekeland, Norman N Anderssen

Indexed on: 07 Jul '18Published on: 07 Jul '18Published in: Health (London, England : 1997)


Research on the topic of not talking about psychosocial hardships describes the presence of 'house rules' against illness-talk in common areas in 'meeting places' ('day centres') in community mental health care. The aim of this article was to explore the complexity of not talking about psychosocial hardships ('silence') in meeting places in Norwegian community mental health care. The research team consisted of first-hand and academic knowers of community mental health care (participatory research team). We performed two series of focus group discussions with service users and staff of meeting places. The focus group interviews were analysed within a discourse analytic framework, and five discursive constructions were identified: (1) biomedical colonization of illness-talk, (2) restricted access for biomedical psychiatry and problem-talk in the common spaces of meeting places, (3) censorship of service users' civil and human rights to freedom of speech, (4) protection from exploitation and burdens and (5) silent knowledge of the peer community. Based on the analysis, we suggest that not talking about illness (silence) entails a complexity ranging from under-privileging implications to promoting the interests of people who 'use' meeting places. For instance, restricting biomedical psychiatry may imply the unintended implication of further silencing service users, while silently shared understandings of hardships among peers may imply resistance against demands to speak to legitimize one's situation. The discussion illuminates dilemmas related to silence that require critical reflexive discussions and continuous negotiations among service users, staff and policymakers in community mental health care.