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Keywords:

  • stigma;
  • culture;
  • mental illness;
  • psychosis;
  • schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder;
  • antipsychotic medication;
  • recovery;
  • lived experience;
  • intersubjectivity

In this article, we identify an array of creative strategies used by persons diagnosed with schizophrenia-related illness to deflect and resist social stigma, and address the lived experience of deploying these strategies in the intersubjective context of everyday life. The data are derived from anthropological interviews and ethnographic observations of ninety persons who received treatment at community mental health facilities in an urban North American locale. Nearly all were keenly aware of stigma that permeated their lives. Their predicament is contradictory: on the one hand, they have recovered relative to previous states of psychosis; on the other hand, their subjectivity is saturated by intense awareness of social stigma that seems intractable in relation to temporal or functional criteria. Ironically, these lives can be characterized as fraught with stigma despite recovery. The strategies generated to resist the impact of stigma highlight the fact that persons with these illnesses are often not only exceedingly socially aware but also strategically skilled in response to social assaults on their personhood and survival. We examine these strategies in terms of (1) the social characteristics of each afflicted person, (2) the situational characteristics of managing stigma, (3) the cultural context of recovery, and (4) the illness-specific characteristics of schizophrenia.