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Narratives from the Mind's Eye: The Significance of Mental Health Pathography in New Zealand, 1980-2008.

Medical narratives have dominated historical accounts of suffering, patients have also played a role in their own illness experiences. Efforts to elucidate their perspective have necessarily focused on deconstructionist readings of material produced by the medical profession. However, in recent years historians have been aided in their task by sufferers, who have begun to publish their own narratives of affliction. These accounts, called 'pathographies', are particularly significant for histories of mental health, where comprehension outside experience remains tenuous. This thesis investigates sufferers' experiences of mental illness through an examination of fourteen New Zealand mental health pathographies, published between 1980 and 2008. It considers, not just what pathographies say, but how the way in which they say it, including the myths, language and media used, conveys the desired meaning and reflects the purpose of the narrative. Sufferers' narratives inform readers about what it is like to be ill, including what was thought, felt and done. In describing their experiences sufferers invariably discuss the illness relationships which comprise their support network. Most especially they highlight the importance of the role which family and friends play in recovery. Despite pathography's restoration of the patient's voice through the provision of a legitimate, therapeutic narrative, silences remain. Whether the result of selectivity, concealment, or forgetfulness, pathographers' silences are far from meaningless, powerfully conveying the pain, anger, embarrassment, and hurt which eludes articulation. In spite of the presence of silence this thesis argues that pathographies are a rich source of information about the position of mental illness sufferers. Yet to be fully utilised, I argue that pathographies testify to the way in which the chaotic can be ordered in a therapeutic plot which communicates the individual truth wrought by memory.
Type of thesis
Campion, M. E. (2009). Narratives from the Mind’s Eye: The Significance of Mental Health Pathography in New Zealand, 1980-2008. (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3585
The University of Waikato
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