Narrating personal experience of living with learning disabilities and mental health issues in institutional and community settings: A case study [2020]

Accessible summary
This is a case study about a man with learning disabilities who has mental health issues.
The case study describes the way that he told a researcher about his life.
Thirty years of his earlier life were spent in a long‐stay hospital in England, UK and more recently he has lived in a community setting with five other people.
This research is important as it assists us to understand the experiences of people with learning disabilities who have mental health needs.

1.1 Background
Historically, the emotional lives and mental health needs of adults with learning disabilities received scant attention, especially when the policy of institutionalisation was at its zenith in the UK.

1.2 Materials and Methods
This case study employed biographical narrative interviews based on a psychosocial approach. The main sources of data production were two loosely structured, audio‐taped, interviews with a man with learning disabilities. This approach uses free association to elicit an individual’s stories about his lived experiences. Additional information was acquired from consultations with key care staff and clinical records maintained by the man’s service provider.

1.3 Results
Data revealed insights into the biography of this man who had a diagnosed mental health disorder. These data recall his personal journey through the care system which took place during an important historical period encompassing both long‐term institutionalisation in segregated settings, and the subsequent implementation of the policy of community care in the UK. He recalls positive and negative experiences while residing in a long‐stay hospital, and the related thoughts and feelings about his life in a community setting in more recent years.

1.4 Conclusion
This case study contributes to an increasing body of studies that perceive the use of in‐depth interviewing of individuals with learning disabilities as having high ecological validity in the development of authentic knowledge, not readily available through other methods used in the co‐production of data.

Paul Sutton & Bob Gates
British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24 July 2020