Social and Clinical Dimensions of Citizenship From the Mental Health-Care Provider Perspective

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Abstract

Objective: Citizenship is a theoretical framework regarding social inclusion and community participation of people with mental illnesses. It is defined by a person’s connection to rights, responsibilities, roles, resources, and relationships. The application of this framework in public mental health settings is in its early stages. This study was an exploration of mental health providers’ views of the potential contribution of this framework. Method: Eight focus groups were conducted with 77 providers on teams in a large mental health center. A 12-item brief version of a 46-item measure of citizenship was a starting point for discussion of the relevance of the framework and citizenship supports in public mental health care. Results: Two themes were presented: social, including relatedness, stigma, and meaningful choices, and clinical, including client empowerment and barriers to citizenship work in clinical settings. These themes are discussed in relation to the introduction of citizenship-oriented practices in mental health care. Participant comments reflect openness to the concept of citizenship and the need for greater access to normative community life for clients, but also skepticism regarding the ability of providers and mental health centers to incorporate citizenship approaches in current care models. Conclusion and Implications for Practice: Findings suggest there are challenges to developing and implementing citizenship supports in public mental health settings based on social and clinical factors and limitations. However, it is also noted that efforts to address challenges through consultation and education of providers can support the goal of a life in the community for persons with mental illness.

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