Indigenous Knowledge and Community Mental Health in Kalamazoo County: A Qualitative Study
Frazer, Patricia A.
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This study, completed over a three month period in Kalamazoo County, is a part of a larger ethnographic research project designed to change the perceptions and stigmas given mentally ill adults. This research will also demonstrate how successful mentally ill people live with their illness. The focus of this paper is on the "indigenous knowledge" that successful mentally ill adults have by nature of being mentally ill and how they can be considered as experts of how to live with a mental illness. This knowledge makes them experts in the area of mental illness. Here, the term successful mentally ill people refers to those mentally ill people who are successfully living, integrated into the community and maintain their mental health in order to stay healthy and out of mental institutions. After analyzing the data I will discuss why members of the mentally ill community are experts in the area of mental health by explaining various strategies used to cope with mental illness and tactics they use to integrate themselves into society. I will also explain how the services provided to mentally ill people are generally in conflict with what helps them to do well and be healthy as they try to maintain 'normal' status in the community. This will be followed by an analysis of how the current mental health system is trying to meet the needs of its consumers. This will include a description of an innovative service agency that seems to be meeting the needs of mentally ill people as they try to integrate and maintain 'normal' status in the community. Finally, I will conclude with suggestions and recommendations on how to better meet the needs of mentally ill people.