Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Judith Aiken


From 19th century insane asylums to state sponsored eugenic programs in the 20th century, the state has been an incongruous leader and provider of mental health policy and practice. Current practices that include such treatments as confinement, restraints, forced medication and electro-convulsive therapy continue to raise issues of social justice and humane treatment.

Since the 1970s a diverse group of consumers of mental health services from political and radical emancipatory movements to consumer and family initiatives have emerged to question, inform and influence federal and state policies and services. Today state administrators and consumer-advocates meet in formal settings in which they exchange ideas as they work to affect and develop mental health policy and practice. However, such exchanges have raised new questions regarding the relationship between these two groups and their ability, in light of past practices to effectively work together to develop mental health policy and practice.

The purpose of this study is to compare how state administrators and consumer-advocates perceive mental illness and how these perceptions impact policy and practice. Through a qualitative research study, the researcher compared and contrasted the perceptions of five consumer-advocates and five state administrators who are involved in major mental health policy in a rural state in order to consider how their perceptions of mental health affect policy and treatment.

This study shows an emerging relationship between state administrators and consumer-advocates but a relationship that lacks communication and trust as their discourse attempts to span the gap between their two symbolic universes. The focus of consumer-advocates on the importance of their role in battling pervasive stigma and the need for people with lived experience to be central in the mental health system can be seen as an effort to overcome a historical pattern of coercion and abuse of mental health patients by the state. The focus of state administrators to remain relevant in a mental health system in which consumer-advocates challenge the status quo can be seen as their effort to retain legitimacy as well as their historic control over the mental health system.

State administrators and consumer-advocates know that they exist in a new, shared world of mental health care and both groups agreed that the relationship between them needs to improve.



Number of Pages

242 p.