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Secular Health and Sacred Belief?

A Study of Religion and Mental Illness in Modern Irish Society

Áine Lorié

Social exclusion is one of the most significant problems facing individuals with mental illness in contemporary Ireland. In the era of the growing secular medical-industrial complex and its alienating effects, it is important to strengthen confidence in mental health services that promote social inclusion, specifically for stigmatised groups. As mainstream facilities remain attached to a biomedical framework, religious outlets operating in the voluntary sector may serve as an alternative option.
This book examines religion’s therapeutic potential, concentrating on aspects of Catholicism as manifestations of Max Weber’s prosocial concept of ‘brotherliness’. This line of enquiry is approached both on a macro level, looking at institutional religion, and on a micro level, looking at personal beliefs. The author examines such issues as the power of the institutional church in disseminating collectively orientated ideas; the public response to mental illness in Ireland over the past two centuries; the tendency within the field of psychology to pathologise belief systems and instrumentalise religious coping; and processes of secularisation, socialisation and ritualisation, which can either assist in or hinder the subjective adaptation of religious ideas. The theoretical arguments are contextualised by in-depth interviews with members of the «peerled» mental health group GROW.


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Chapter 4 GROW and Sacred Belief


This chapter is divided into four sections and aims to uncover Weberian brotherly themes impacting the volunteer group GROW. The first section lays out a general introduction regarding fieldwork and methodology. The remainder of the chapter describes GROW and its mixing of sacred and profane ideas by looking at GROW meetings, GROW texts, and the indi- vidual accounts of GROW members. Analysis of the fieldwork’s findings will be left for the final chapter. At the end of this exploration it is possible to see more clearly how matters of sacred belief and secular health impact those coping with mental illness in contemporary Irish society, as well as addressing how the former could promote social inclusion. Introduction to Fieldwork This section will start by discussing methodology in terms of planning, decision-making, ethical matters, and particular dif ficulties. Thereafter I shall present the background of the peer-led mental health group GROW. Lastly I will expand on the reasoning behind the focal points (text, meet- ings, and interviews) in terms of the chosen methodology. I begin now by addressing issues of ref lexivity and then retrace the highly problematic steps that were necessary to unearth the outcomes of this fieldwork. 158 Chapter 4 Ref lexivity Popper (1957), Giddens (1976), Ruby (1980), Bourdieu (1992), and various other scholars have raised the importance of ref lexivity as a methodologi- cal issue. Being aware of the bidirectional relationship and feedback when conducting a study is truly significant, as the observer is not independent of what he...

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