Finding Citizenship: What Works

Name of the Journal: 
American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation
Harper, A., Kriegel, L. S., Morris, C., Hamer, H., & Gambino, M.

Citizenship is a foundation for mental health recovery and community integration. Achievement of full citizenship in the community is curated by a person’s social environment, including social connections and the support and capital offered by those connections. This article presents qualitative findings of community integration experiences of individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) and details social environment elements they identified as critical to integration. Three primary themes were identified as contributing to achievement of citizenship among participants: (1) macrosocial interactions, described by a civic consciousness and receipt of positive social recognition; (2) microsocial interactions, including intimate relationships with family and friends; and (3) interactions at an intermediate level, fleeting relationships with passersby in public spaces. All three were underlain by the importance of social recognition of acts of giving. Individuals with SMI who were identified as successful in their path to citizenship indicated that their social environment played a major contributing factor in their success. The findings of this study suggest community-based interventions with this population should consider (1) supporting engagement at a macrolevel, including advocacy on nonmental health issues; (2) supporting the support and capital provided by families, friends, and providers and the ability of a person with SMI to support others; and (3) valuing and protecting shared public spaces and promoting small acts of civility as valuable counters to stigma-related microaggressions.