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Learning to manage a mental health condition: Caring for the self and ‘normalizing’ identity at work

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Management Learning
Issue number4
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)466-484
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date22/04/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article examines the internal and external pressures to ‘normalize’ identity in relation to individuals experiencing mental health conditions (MHCs) at work. The data takes the form of three vignettes extracted from a larger empirical study of 60 interviews. These explore the tensions surrounding identity for individuals experiencing MHCs as well as their interventions to suppress exhibiting the condition. The analysis captures a number of competing meanings surrounding identity in relation to learning to care for the self and managing MHCs. Our contribution is to explore the relationships between learning to care for the self and the performativity of ‘normalizing’ identity in managing MHCs at work. It also provides a potential means of integrating Foucault’s ethics of caring for the self with the literature on identity in ways that can be illuminating for those who manage their MHCs and the demands of work through processes of ‘normalization’. This analysis offers theoretical insights regarding how identity work may be self-defeating in exacerbating MHCs and therefore is of some practical benefit for managers, health professionals and those experiencing MHCs since they often leave individuals with little choice but to intensify their attempts to ‘normalize’ their identities.