Discourses of aggression in forensic mental health: a critical discourse analysis of mental health nursing staff records

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Abstract

Managing aggression in mental health hospitals is an important and challenging task for clinical nursing staff. A majority of studies focus on the perspective of clinicians, and research mainly depicts aggression by referring to patient-related factors. This qualitative study investigates how aggression is communicated in forensic mental health nursing records. The aim of the study was to gain insight into the discursive practices used by forensic mental health nursing staff when they record observed aggressive incidents. Textual accounts were extracted from the Staff Observation Aggression Scale-Revised (SOAS-R), and Fairclough's critical discourse analysis was used to identify short narrative entries depicting patients and staffs in typical ways. The narratives contained descriptions of complex interactions between patient and staff that were linked to specific circumstances surrounding the patient. These antecedents, combined with the aggression incident itself, created stereotyping representations of forensic psychiatric patients as deviant, unpredictable and dangerous. Patient and staff identities were continually (re)produced by an automatic response from the staff that was solely focused on the patient's behavior. Such response might impede implementation of new strategies for managing aggression.

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