‘Without Occupation You Don't Exist’: Occupational Engagement and Mental Illness


This phenomenological study explores the meanings of work for people living with severe and enduring mental health conditions. The participants were three women and seven men who were attending a mental health day centre. Data were collected through up to three depth interviews with each participant over 18 months. The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed according to phenomenological principles. Two overarching themes were identified. Building and maintaining an occupational identity expressed the ways in which participants used occupations as the building blocks of an evolving identity. Most of the participants wanted to work, and participation in occupations was seen as essential to recovery from mental ill-health. Work and other ways of belonging encapsulated the need to feel connected to others. Many of the participants envisaged working as a way of achieving this. The longitudinal nature of the study facilitated engagement with the developing narratives and exploration of the changes and consistencies in the participants’ meaning making about their occupations. Implications for understanding individuals’ occupational participation which enhances a sense of self and promotes feelings of belonging are identified.

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@inproceedings{Blank2015WithoutOY, title={‘Without Occupation You Don't Exist’: Occupational Engagement and Mental Illness}, author={Alison Anne Blank and Priscilla Harries and Frances Ann Reynolds}, year={2015} }