The mental illness-mental wellness struggle and the taking of responsibility: Observations in the Clubhouse setting

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


William S. Pooler


Clubhouse, Responsibility, Mental illness-mental wellness struggle, Mental wellness struggle

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Persons who are labeled mentally ill and attempting to live in the community are the focus of this study. The two Clubhouses studied functioned as a support system for consumers known as "members". The settings followed the Fountain House international model in existence since 1948. In the Clubhouse the members take active responsibility in Work Units to assist in maintaining the organization. It is their struggle with mental illness and the climb toward higher levels of what I have conceptualized as "mental wellness" which emerged as a central issue in this manuscript. The two primary questions around which the dissertation is organized are: (1) Do people labeled mentally ill go through varying levels of mental wellness as they take increasing responsibility for themselves and others? (2) Do people living with the mental illness label tend to be more constrained by others in society than is necessary in the taking of responsibility? The members experiences suggest the difficulty in achieving mental wellness as the mental illness ebbs and flows. At the same time Henry, a receptionist for Clinic services could function well in this role in spite of the hallucinations that invaded his consciousness at night when images of "snakes entered his room, crawling over walls and his sheets." This kind of self-efficacy was evident among the members as they took various levels of employment and in the responsibility they took as "leaders". Several other issues related to the mental illness-mental wellness experience are examined including: time frame changes, opportunities for family contact, friendships and communication styles. What becomes apparent is that the members, in spite of their episodes of chronic mental illness, can function as strong contributors as they take responsibility for themselves and support others in the world around them.


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