The research has emerged from the wider body of work being conducted in the School of Applied Social Science into Section 136 detentions which has identified a high proportion of women with a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) diagnosis being detained under this section of the Mental Health Act and a desire by these women to share their experiences and maintain involvement in research to enhance understanding and improve treatment and care of themselves and others in a similar position.
The aim of the research project is to examine the ‘lived experience’ of women with a Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), particularly in relation to how they understand and conceptualise their diagnosis in relation to their life histories and sense of self. Part of this will include an exploration of the personal coping strategies utilised by women with a BPD diagnosis to negotiate identity, with a particular focus on the role of creativity.
The research can be loosely described in terms of two distinct but connected phases. The first of these is a qualitative secondary analysis of eight interviews conducted by my lead supervisor, Professor Gillian Bendelow, by women with a BPD diagnosis, all of whom have, at some point, been detained under S136 of the Mental Health Act. Analysis of these interviews revealed a range of in depth and complex narratives that represented a whole spectrum of life events, emotions and observations considered significant to the participants, which extended far beyond their experiences of being detained under S136. What also began to emerge were a range of diverse and often creative interests and coping strategies amongst participants, which appeared to assist in the management of distress and negotiation of identity.
This discovery led to the development of the second research stage, which aims to engage collaboratively with women with a BPD diagnosis who are actively engaged in forms of creative pursuits to elucidate an understanding of the personal meanings associated with creativity and its role in negotiating identity and managing distressing symptoms.
It is my aim that through analysis of the narratives that are produced through the telling of stories in this way that I am able to contribute towards a richer understanding of how these women understand, shape and interpret events and experiences and create identities based on these experiences and understandings.