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Silent, invisible and under-supported? : An autoethnographic journey through the valley of the shadow and youth mental health in Australia

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Hugo, AA 2017 , 'Silent, invisible and under-supported? : An autoethnographic journey through the valley of the shadow and youth mental health in Australia', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This autoethnographic account of personal loss and consequent meaning-making aims to contribute to a unique understanding of young Australians facing both times of uncertainty and mental illness. As a qualitative study, it explores the lived experience of the researcher whose working life was spent in youth studies. This tacit knowledge seemed to fail as she tried to get help for her mentally ill son who died unexpectedly of a drug overdose. Using critical autoethnography and a highly reflexive approach, the researcher deploys three reflexive selves – mother-self, youth studies self, and autoethnographer/researcher-self – in order to answer the research question, How might a mother’s autoethnographic account of her son “falling through the cracks” help us to better understand and support Australian youth experiencing mental illness?
The study contributes insights from a community perspective about the disjunction between policy promises and service delivery for young people with mental illness in Australia. The gap this thesis fills is methodological by nature, since the autoethnographic voice of a parent is rare in the multidisciplinary contexts of this research. Using youth studies as its theoretical framework, the literature review explores broad themes in youth studies as well as mental health, along with specific themes addressed throughout the thesis such as the experience of exclusion from decision-making, the issues of youth agency and mental illness, shame and stigma, suicidality and psychiatric treatment for mentally ill youth. The autoethnography itself is presented as two distinct chapters, the first tracing a narrative arc through migration, schooling, bullying, giftedness, existential angst, suicidality and mental illness, and the second continuing beyond the death of the researcher’s son, exploring the “broken dialogue” in mental health policy and service settings, laying bare a disjunction between the lay and professional views of mental illness. This thesis will be of interest and relevance for professionals who work with gifted youth as well as parents, teachers, policy-makers and others concerned with the mental health of Australian youth.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Hugo, AA
Keywords: youth mental health, youth studies, youth policy, autoethnography
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Copyright 2017 the author

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