Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 4 (July/August 1999), Pages 247-319

Understanding public opinion relating to the establishment of community mental health facilities: implications of a discourse analytic approach (pages 289-307)


This paper demonstrates a novel approach to investigating the problem of public opposition to community mental health facilities. With the move towards community care, organizations setting up mental health facilities have encountered public opposition. It has been argued that this is due, in part, to the attitudes held by the public towards mentally ill people. A knowledge and understanding of attitudes towards this client group therefore has the potential to be of practical use to policy makers and practitioners who have a responsibility to consult on, and implement, community care for mentally ill people. The survey approaches and hypothetical situations used in previous British studies of community attitudes towards mentally ill people have, however, failed to take account of the rhetorical richness and complexity of the attitudes likely to be expressed in real‐life community care contexts. By contrast, the study reported in this paper used a discourse analytic approach to explore the views expressed about mentally ill people in a ‘hot situation’. Specifically, people's views were explored in the contexts of the arguments they used to challenge or advocate a supported accommodation project for mentally ill people in their community. This paper examines some of these arguments and discusses the theoretical implications for traditional approaches to attitude research. In conclusion, the potential practical utility of the findings is considered. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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