Lay Perceptions of the Link Between Self-Advocacy and Good Mental Health
This paper explores the social constructivist aspects of the notion of ‘clinical depression’ and how that construction might impact the individual’s self-perceived potential for self-advocacy. This empirical study examines the relation between perceived self-advocacy of a fictional other and judgments of the other’s overall mental health and level of depression. Perceived self-advocacy of the other was found to be related to attributions of good overall mental health and low depression. However, providing mock high depression psychological test data for the fictional person judged negated the positive mental health attributions that occur when no such data is provided and the individual is perceived as having engaged in self-advocacy. The results suggest that self-advocacy (here protesting a human rights violation), is perceived to be a sign of good mental health unless the layperson is led to believe that formal psychological data provided contradicts their informal tacit assessment. Qualitative data collected indicated that a separate group of subjects regarded depression as a potential facilitator of self-advocacy (i.e. a motivator to change the situation that was leading to unhappiness), while others saw it as an impediment to self-advocacy. Thus, depressive symptomatology was not necessarily viewed by laypersons as leading to self-defeating behaviors. The potential psychotherapeutic benefit of enhancing the mental health client’s sense of rights entitlement is considered. Also discussed is the issue of the potential adverse impact on self-advocacy of perceiving the self as ‘clinically depressed’ and as meeting the psychiatric diagnostic criteria with a consequent possible increase in client pessimism and passivity over baseline pre-diagnosis.
Keywords: Psychotherapy, Client Self-Advocacy, Clinical Depression, Self-Perception, Attributions
Dr. Sonja Grover
Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Lakehead University