Troubling ‘insight’: power and possibilities in mental health care

Authors

  • B. HAMILTON rpn bn(hons),

    Corresponding author
    1. PhD Candidate,
      B. Hamilton
      School of Nursing
      University of Melbourne
      Level 1, 723 Swanston Street
      Carlton, Vic. 3053
      Australia
      E-mail: beh@cassius.its.unimelb.edu.au
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  • C. ROPER dip ed

    1. Consumer Academic, School of Nursing, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Vic., Australia
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  • This paper is a development of a presentation delivered to the interdisciplinary ‘Making Waves’ conference in Mata Mata, New Zealand, 2005.

B. Hamilton
School of Nursing
University of Melbourne
Level 1, 723 Swanston Street
Carlton, Vic. 3053
Australia
E-mail: beh@cassius.its.unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

This paper critiques the conventional concept of ‘insight’ within the mental status assessment, seeking to unseat its taken-for-granted definition and the status it has acquired in research and practice. Drawing on social theory, consumer perspective and interdisciplinary research, the paper focuses on the impact of ‘thin’ biomedical understandings of insight, in disqualifying and demoralizing persons subjected to assessment and at the same time creating punitive scrutineers out of well-intentioned practitioners. Nurses and their mental health colleagues are encouraged to reconsider their reliance on the concept of insight. We entertain the alternative idea that insight is a quality of perception that mental health practitioners can cultivate, to more deeply understand their work, culture and the self.

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