Social Inclusion of Mentally Ill Persons from the Former German Democratic Republic (GDR) By Means of Civic Engagement

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:30
Location: Hörsaal 6B P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Heike STECKLUM, University of Göttingen, Germany
There is a worldwide agreement about the importance of gainful employment for social inclusion. The loss of employment or the exclusion from it can be based on mental problems which, in turn, may lead to further unemployability. This contribution illustrates the role and function of civic engagement in this context, using biographies of mentally ill persons from East Germany as an example. These results are based on biographic-narrative interviews and case reconstructions (following Rosenthal 1995), performed within my completed PhD work.

In the former GDR, the interviewees were employed based on the right to work by law. In case of mental illness they were re-integrated into employment. Because of the closely linkage between the acquisition context and social institutions they usually were members of organisations, parties and/or engaged otherwise. This social inclusion was a normality or implicitness for them. The findings of my biographical case studies show, in which way gainful employment and civic engagement represented an important and protective framework for people with adverse experiences and stigmatisation in their socialisation.

As a consequence of the social change after the German reunification, the former inclusion became insecure and some interviewees got jobless. These experiences highly effected the clinical manifestation of mental illnesses of persons which were healthy until then. The diachronic perspective on the life and family stories revealed the interdependency between experiences made before 1990 and during the social transformation.

For what concerns the action strategies of the agents, I will highlight the importance of their socialisation and former experience of inclusion – particularly with regard to resources, competences, and continuing orientation on the framework of employment. At last I discuss chances and limitations for inclusion in various forms of work in society under the conditions of stigmatisation and psychiatric experience.