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Can Bull Med Hist. 2012;29(1):101-23.

"The older staff, myself included, we were pretty institutionalized ourselves": authority and insight in practitioner narratives of psychiatric deinstitutionalization in Prairie Canada.

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  • York University.


In the early 1960s, Canada's provinces began radically to reduce the in-patient populations of their psychiatric services. This was part of a wider project of trans-institutionalization through which vulnerable people and those who cared for them were shifted across institutional contexts within Canada's evolving welfare state apparatus. This article draws on interviews with Psychiatric Nurses who worked through the transformative mental health reforms of the 1960s and 1970s, and it makes a case for practitioner history. Practitioner narratives offer a window on the vital tensions between the manifest and the latent functions of welfare institutions, between the impulse to support and the impulse to control, and between paternalism and respect for the rights of the mentally ill. It draws upon the authority of practitioners who, retrospectively, have gained insight into their involvement with prior regimes of caring and control and have come to discern institutional logics previously so hegemonic as to have been largely invisible to them.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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