Accepted Paper:

Hybrid patienthood: psychiatric patients and mental health services in a digital age  


Anna Johansson (UmeƄ University)

Paper short abstract:

People with negative experiences from mental health services sometimes gather online to form critical communities. The paper explores how this interaction, in interplay with offline practices, may transform the relation between patient and psychiatry, thus producing new forms of psychiatric patienthood.

Paper long abstract:

People with negative experiences from mental health services sometimes gather to share their stories in forums, blogs and other social media. Such accounts often emphasize inaccessibility of services and lack of resources in the mental health care system, as well as problems with particular clinics or individual staff members. Many advocate change, and they also challenge a view of the psychiatric patient as being incapable of self-determination or self-advocacy. The accounts contribute to the formation of loosely defined patient communities, involving identity production on individual as well as collective levels. Care providers, in turn, have to find ways of responding to the criticism while also dealing with the fact that forms of online interaction can sometimes be seen as interfering with goals of treatment.

Historically, mental care patients have had limited opportunities to take part in public debate, and the relationship between patient and psychiatry has traditionally been understood as marked by power imbalances. Therefore, it is important to investigate how social media use, in interplay with offline practices and relationships, may transform psychiatric patienthood. These matters are explored in this paper through an ethnographic study of patients' online spaces as well as interviews with mental health professionals. The paper addresses questions such as: In what ways may use of social media reformulate what it means to be a psychiatric patient? How is this handled by mental health care institutions, and what are the potential consequences for actual care practices?

Panel P18
Expressive culture and identities in a digital age