Defining Location in the Mental Health System:

In this ethnographic study of a mental health service agency staffed by “consumers,” or fellow “recipients” of services for serious mental illness, the concept of community narrative provides the framework for examining how such an agency preserves its consumer identity while providing services dictated by the established service system. Locating the agency's narrative in its “origins tale,” analysis revealed five principles comprising the agency's identity: a normalizing view of mental illness, a commitment to helping, a dual-valued understanding of the mental health system, and beliefs in recovery and in the significance of employment as a criterion for recovery. Predicted consequences of narrative functioning emerged in social climate and staff expressions of cohesion and commitment. The local meaning of these narrative themes reveals the agency's view of the consumer element in its work and its solution to the dilemma of being both inside and outside of the mental health system. (Author)

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Journal Name: 
American Journal of Community Psychology