Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Anticipating the Future in the Organisation of Home: Bergson, Whitehead and Mental Health Service Users

Academic journal article Outlines : Critical Practice Studies

Anticipating the Future in the Organisation of Home: Bergson, Whitehead and Mental Health Service Users

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper develops an approach to analysing the importance of anticipations of the future on present actions in the lives of mental health service users, for whom sensing stability in the future is important. The work of Henri Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead is drawn upon to argue that past and future experience only exists in relation to the shaping of present activity. Both though introduce notions of fluidity and flux, which can be problematic for perceptions of stability and security to develop. The aim of the paper is to explore how a sense of stability is produced through the future acting as an anticipatory force on the present. Drawing on empirical work with community mental health service users the paper focuses on the home as a key site for organising the present in anticipation of future life. This involves analysing accounts of home making in which we see the role of anticipatory futures in the ordering of domestic space. The paper concludes by arguing that home spaces are a key site related to ongoing psychological well being, and that analysis of such spaces is important in terms of highlighting practices through which service users attempt to 'make the future'.

The shifting spaces of mental distress

The changing nature of the landscapes of mental distress has been well documented (Bennett, 1991; Coid, 1994; Hoult, Reynolds, Charbonneau-Powis, Weekes, & Briggs, 1983; Knapp, 1992; Pinfold, 2000; Scull, 1979), particularly in relation to the shiftfrom hospitalisation to community care as the primary mechanism for locating people suffering with mental distress. Community care has been a well established model through which mental health services are provided to those in need, and has come under considerable scrutiny with regard to the 'efficacy' of its operation (Bayne Smith, 1996; Ekeland & Bergem, 2006; Mechanic, 2001; Williams, 1999). This has involved analysing the provision of care in a number of community locations (e.g. day centres and out-patient hospital services). A key result of the shiftto community care is mental health service users spending a lot of time outside of formal 'care environments', such as out patient clinics or community day centres. The high level of unemployment in the service user population means that they can have a lot of 'free' time, and understanding and analysing where and how this time is filled is central to highlighting the challenges facing community based service users. This has led to interest in the nature of the locations of everyday living; with the home found to be a place service users can spend a considerable amount of time (see Tucker, 2010a; Tucker, 2010b).

The home as a space is not just important in terms of being the container of present experience, as if daily activity just goes on 'within' it, but is actually formed through the activities that produce it. The idea of space being created has become well established within social and cultural geography (Anderson, 2006; Davidson & Milligan, 2004; Lorimer, 2005; Thrift, 2008) and has started to permeate related disciplines (e.g. psychology, Tucker, 2010a, 2010b). This idea sees spaces not as having inherent properties, but as made through relations between people and objects. An important consequence of this is the notion that spaces can change, as they do not provide stable identities, but are produced through relations between people and objects that themselves are subject to variation and flux. That is, that they are not de facto stable forms that exist unchanged across time, but always have the potential for alteration. It is this possibility for future change that features as a central interest of this paper. Firstly, in terms of necessitating analysis of the practices that make domestic home space for service users. And, secondly the idea that the organisation of home is critical for perceiving potential future life. This second point is important for community mental health service users, as organising the present in anticipation of the future is often a prominent part of life due to suffering with mental distress, and the associated negative life experiences (e. …

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