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The Religious Experience of People With Enduring Mental Health Problems.

Fellowes, Diana Maeve. (2005) The Religious Experience of People With Enduring Mental Health Problems. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

This thesis expands the knowledge base regarding a group of people who are under researched and whose religious experiences, interests and beliefs have hitherto not been investigated. It examines the religious experience of a sample of people with enduring (chronic) mental health problems living in the South East of England. The few studies that consider religious variables in the mentally ill lack conceptual and methodological sophistication, and the scant religious data that have been gathered in the UK and the US primarily record either religion or denominational affiliation. However, several authors argue that there is a 'religiosity gap' between the users and providers of mental health services. This research entailed a structured interview with one hundred users of a Psychiatric Service to investigate their religious lives, and to identify those who had had a 'religious experience'. Thirty-six of the sixty-seven respondents who had such an experience were then interviewed in depth to explore the function that religion served in their lives, and to understand how it interfaced with their psychopathology. Sociologically the beginning of a new millennium is an interesting time to study and reflect upon the interface between two social phenomena that have undergone significant changes during the latter years of the last century: mental illness and religion. The mentally ill are no longer institutionalised and secluded from society but have become individuals with rights living in the community, who can contribute to the understanding of their own mental health. Altered too is the place of religion in society and in the lives of individuals, and England has changed from being a Christian country, albeit nominally, to proclaiming its multicultural nature, with patterns of church attendance dramatically reduced. However, a high proportion of the mentally ill still look to religion and I was concerned to understand from a sociological perspective the factors that accounted for this. This thesis argues that the religious beliefs and practices of those with enduring mental health problems do not differ fundamentally from those of the general population, although they are more likely to believe in the more frightening aspects of Christianity - the Devil and hell. This finding fits into the main argument of the thesis that for those people with enduring mental health problems for whom religion and religious experiences are important, religion can provide a framework that enables them to make sense of the turbulent, and often frightening, thought processes arising on a recurrent basis from their illnesses. Religion can provide order amidst the chaos that severe mental illness can bring, thus helping to restore their ontological security.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Fellowes, Diana Maeve.
Date : 2005
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 2005.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 30 Apr 2019 08:07
Last Modified : 20 Aug 2019 15:32
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/851284

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