Tackling community integration in mental health home visit integration in Finland

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Abstract

Integration – and its synonym inclusion – is emphasised in the western welfare states and in the European Union in particular. Integration is also a central topic in the social sciences and in current mental health and homelessness research and practice. As mental healthcare has shifted from psychiatric hospitals to the community, it has inevitably become involved with housing and integration issues. This article explores how community integration is understood and tackled in mental health floating support services (FSSs) and, more precisely, in service user–practitioner home visit interaction. The aim, through shedding light on how the idea of integration is present and discussed in front-line mental health practices, is to offer a ‘template’ on how we might, in a systematic and reflective way, develop community integration research and practice. The analysis is based on ethnomethodological and micro-sociological interaction research. The research settings are two FSSs located in a large Finnish city. The data contain 24 audio-recorded and transcribed home visits conducted in 2011 and 2012 with 16 different service users. The study shows how the participants in service user–practitioner interaction give meaning to community integration and make decisions about how it should (or should not) be enhanced in each individual case. This activity is called community integration work in action. Community integration work in action is based on various dimensions of integration: getting out of the house, participating in group activities and getting along with those involved in one's life and working life. Additionally, the analysis demonstrates how community integration work is accomplished by discursive devices (resistance, positioning, excuses and justifications, delicacy and advice-giving). The article concludes that community integration is about interaction: it is not only service users' individual challenge but also a social challenge, our challenge.

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