Chinese mental illness narratives: Controlling the spirit


  • Guy Ramsay University of Queensland



illness narrative, mental illness, community psychoeducation, Chinese culture, narrative domains, gaining control


Through analysis of local level narrative themes and linguistic features and their attendant narrative ‘domains’ and emotive content, this study explicates the discursive forms of Chinese personal narratives about mental illness published in a psychoeducational volume in mainland China. The cultural phenomena underpinning the explicated discursive forms are considered. The study finds that the Chinese mental illness narratives emphasize the problematic nature of the illness experience for the individual concerned, as well as the importance of gaining control over the personal and social disembodiment that mental illness brings about. The language of medicine presents as a dominant linguistic feature of the texts. Narrative authors appear to respond to their illness experience by negotiating and utilizing social relationships and support structures and through active medical intercession. As such, their narratives appear deeply culturally marked despite their psychoeducational intent and institutional context of publication. The study findings bear out the call for more attention to be given to the cultural dimension when analysing illness narratives.

Author Biography

Guy Ramsay, University of Queensland

Guy Ramsay lectures in Chinese language studies at The University of Queensland, Australia. His research interests encompass discourse analysis and intercultural communication studies, with a current interest in representations of health in Chinese communities, particularly mental illness.



How to Cite

Ramsay, G. (2010). Chinese mental illness narratives: Controlling the spirit. Communication and Medicine, 6(2), 189–198.