Stigma, shame & family secrets

Stigma, shame and family secrets as consequences of mental illness in previous generations: A micro-history approach

Abstract: In this article we evaluate micro-history as a method for investigating the meaning of stigma, shame and family secrets through generations. We present micro-histories of two Australian soldiers who developed mental illness years after serving in World War 1 and were committed to a psychiatric hospital where they died. Data were drawn from publicly available records and interviews with family members. The contrasting stories held by the families of each man illustrate the transmission of stigma and secrets through families. We explore possible reasons for the differences between the families related to the wider literature on stigma and mental health and show why the family stories people present should be considered social constructions rather than facts. We also address ethical issues that arose during the research, and which have relevance for researchers investigating sensitive or potentially stigmatising topics.

Citation: Clark, Eileen, Munday, J & Watts, A. 2022. Stigma, Shame and Family Secrets as Consequences of Mental Illness in Previous Generations: A Micro-History Approach. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine. Online first, 1-16. doi:10.1177/13634593221114751

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