A Collective Voice of the Consumer: Indigenous Knowledge of the Mentally Ill
Afridi, Adam A.
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I have two goals for this report. First, I hope to relay the unique perspective of the consumer of which I was privy to over the last three months of this ethnographic research. Secondly, I want to use this study as a medium to give voice to and ultimately empower those with mental illness. This conviction to help consumers is shared by consumers themselves as I saw in their willingness to offer their insight. After conducting an interview, a consumer said, "If this will help someone, then I'm happy to do it." The general tone of my findings is concerned yet optimistic. Many interviews reveal a great deal of improvement in the quality of life among those with whom we spoke. Despite their difficulties, many of those who suffer from mental illness express a sense of optimism and hope in looking toward the future and in improving their lives. Many issues surfaced during the process of this three month ethnographic research. Yet, to give this study focus, clarity, and impact, the "indigenous knowledge" of consumers will be underscored by relying on their own experiences. The purpose is to highlight the perspective of the mentally ill culture, therefore, the study will focus on their thoughts, their words, and their ideas. Their experiences will be tied together with certain themes and emphasized to show the frequency of a certain perspective. Some of the themes voiced by consumers include acceptance, advice, religion, self-knowledge, and coping strategies, to name a few. There are two goals in presenting the material in this way. The first is to help those who experience a mental illness to be aware of ways others consumers live and cope. At the same time, the informants will hopefully feel empowered by using this study as a vehicle to express their unique outlook. The second goal is to educate those who haven't had any contact with the mentally ill culture and society. My job is closer to a reporter relaying all the facts rather than someone from the outside imposing their own perspective and theories. To have a more powerful effect, the study will let those who live with a mental illness express themselves and their "indigenous knowledge". Combating a stigma of consumers will be achieved by letting them stand up and speak rather than doing it ourselves.