Black women, mental illness, identity, feminist narrative analysis, life history methods


This paper discusses a methodological approach to research that enhances critical analysis by contextualizing qualitative research findings within participants' individual experiences. We demonstrate the combined use of life history methods and feminist narrative analysis to explore Black women's everyday experiences with mental illness, from their perspectives. These interpretive methods reach beyond pathologized conceptions of identity and adjustment that often narrowly characterize mental illness among Black women. Instead, these methods holistically describe a participant's experiences and strategies she uses to pursue goals and enhance her life. The use of the methods is illustrated with examples from the life narrative of "Maria," a Black woman living with serious mental illness. Our findings underscore the need for rigorous, culturally appropriate methods and further research to evaluate participants' standpoints and needs, and interventions to facilitate understanding and improved outcomes.

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