Document Detail

The cultural construction of mental illness in prison: a perfect storm of pathology.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  23212545     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Large numbers of individuals in U.S. prisons meet DSM criteria for severe psychiatric disorder. These individuals also have co-occurring personality and substance abuse disorders, medical conditions, and histories of exposure to social pathologies. Based on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in a U.S. prison, focusing on staff narratives, I utilize interpretivist and constructivist perspectives to analyze how mental health clinicians construct psychiatric disorder among inmates. Discrete categorization of disorders may be confounded by the clinical co-morbidities of inmates and the prison context. Incarcerated individuals' responses to the institutional context substantially inform mental health staffs' illness construction and the prison itself is identified as an etiological agent for disordered behaviors. In addition, diagnostic processes are found to be indeterminate, contested, and shaped by interactions with staff. Analysis of illness construction reveals that what is at stake for clinicians is not only provision of appropriate treatment, but also mandates for the safety and security of the institution. Enmeshed in these mandates, prison mental health becomes a particular local form of psychiatric knowledge. This paper contributes to anthropological approaches to mental disorder by demonstrating how local contexts mediate psychiatric knowledge and contribute to the limited ethnographic record of prisons.
Joseph D Galanek
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Culture, medicine and psychiatry     Volume:  37     ISSN:  1573-076X     ISO Abbreviation:  Cult Med Psychiatry     Publication Date:  2013 Mar 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2013-03-04     Completed Date:  2013-09-05     Revised Date:  2014-03-07    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  7707467     Medline TA:  Cult Med Psychiatry     Country:  Netherlands    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  195-225     Citation Subset:  IM    
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MeSH Terms
Anthropology, Medical / methods
Mental Disorders / epidemiology*,  psychology
Prisoners / psychology*
Social Environment*
Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*,  psychology
United States
Grant Support

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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