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Narrative reconstruction of mental illness as a work-stress-induced disorder: processes, consequences and implications

Shimizu, Hiroto 2021. Narrative reconstruction of mental illness as a work-stress-induced disorder: processes, consequences and implications. Sociology of Health & Illness 43 (5) , pp. 1206-1220. 10.1111/1467-9566.13288

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Stress-induced mental illnesses have become the focus of increasing international attention, particularly in Japan since the 1990s, where judiciary cases and welfare-state initiatives established causal links between work stress and mental illness. However, how individuals retrospectively construct this causality remains a marginal topic in the literature. This ethnographic article explores the ways in which male workers seeking compensation for their condition (depression and adjustment disorder) reconstruct aetiology narratives and to what avail. This paper demonstrates two themes: (1) how objectivising stress (related to specific formats of worker compensation), no-faulting (dispensing with individual blame to view stress as pervasive in the workplace) and negotiating blame (seeking explanation in terms of individual psychology) construct a case, and (2) how narrative reconstruction functions as both a barrier to recovery and way of working towards recovery and collective function. It is argued that the narrative reconstructions of workers, who become unwell and seek recognition, suggest uncertain self-victimisation despite the broader understanding of mental illness in contemporary Japan. The findings imply the heuristic potential of relativising causality and treating analytical dichotomies, including causality–narrative, victimhood–agency and fact–fiction, not as contradictory alternatives, but as different analysis levels, to better understand ambiguous illness narratives.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0141-9889
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 3 June 2021
Date of Acceptance: 11 April 2021
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 12:44

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