Mad talk: attending to the language of distress

Document Type


Publication details

Crowe, M & Alavi, C 1999, 'Mad talk: attending to the language of distress', Nursing Inquiry, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 26–33.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1800.1999.00008.x

Peer Reviewed



This paper will examine how the narrative of one woman, Madeleine, can be constructed as symptomatic of the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and how it can also be read from other perspectives, particularly a poststructural feminist one. The readings are presented as possibilities for understanding the woman's experiences and the implications of this for mental health nursing practice. A poststructural feminist reading acknowledges the gendered experiences of subjectivity and how those experiences are constructed in language. The purpose of this paper is to identify for mental health nursing practice an approach which recognizes the figurative and literal characteristics of language in order to provide nursing care which positions the individual's experience of mental distress as central This requires an acknowledgement of Madeleine's path into mental distress rather than simply a categorization of what is observed in a clinical setting. Intervention may need to include a range of strategies: medical and nonmedical, psychotherapeutic and social, physical and environmental. It may also require the provision of sanctuary and security whilst these options are explored.

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