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AMHIG Graduate Student Paper Prize Award 2021

AMHIG is excited to announce the winner of our annual graduate student paper prize. Congratulations to Gerpha Gerlin for her excellent paper, “‘There’s Got to be More to Life than Feeling Like This’: Navigating Mental Illness Recovery Alone, Together, and in-Between.” We look forward to celebrating her intellectual achievements at our annual membership meeting on Monday, October 18th! Attached below is a short bio about Gerpha, along with her paper abstract. 

Bio: Gerpha Gerlin is a medical anthropology PhD/MPH student & Science in Human Culture Cluster Fellow at Northwestern University. As of fall 2021, she has begun volunteering with the University’s Prison Education Program as a co-director of student wellness. Gerpha works on issues related to psychiatric dis-ease and disablement, identity development, knowledge-production economies, and implementation science. Her dissertation will work at the interface of behavioral health and criminal justice systems, exploring treatment of and for people deemed at a pathologized risk of “committing” suicide. Her multi-sited project will critically engage aspects and consequences of custodial care for psychiatric consumers, survivors, and ex-patients who have lost (or “forfeited”), and are trying to recover, the ability to participate fully and freely in the world. She wants to better understand how examining subjectivization can inform illness de-criminalization and efforts of community re-integration.

Abstract: This reflection, emerging from select fieldnotes, expands upon sociologist Norman
Denzin’s concept of “illness as epiphany”, or, moments wherein narrators who are ill recognize the extent to which their personhood was honed through the medium of the illness itself (Frank 1993, 46). In the field, the author engages people self-identifying with chronic mental illness via participant-observation at three peer support networks (PSNs) in two metropolitan cities across the Northeast and Midwest. More broadly, her project probes how people experiencing disabling effects of mental illness learn to care for themselves, seeing themselves within and beyond the contours of the diagnosis. She focuses on how their views shape the construction of diverse healing communities. Illness narratives and peer support become tools for understanding the extent to which disability can incite a fundamental interrogation of the self. Within these matrices of care, the central contention becomes the constitution of a new(er)self, one capable of championing lived experience as a form of expertise and advocating for unmet needs.

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