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UBC Theses and Dissertations

You are my mirror : one teacher’s autobiographical narrative inquiry into mental illness Rego, Virginia Marie


This research is presented as an autobiographical narrative inquiry about one teacher’s experience of living with mental illness. The main objective of this research is to contribute to expanding our understanding of how our education systems must include acceptance and inclusion of the large number of students, educators, school trustees, education bureaucrats, parents and administrators who live with mental illness. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, mental illness will impact one in two Canadians by age 40 with the onset of symptoms occurring during adolescence, making the school system an important public institution for recognizing and treating mental illness. Yet, there continues to be stigma and fear around mental illness, which may hinder peoples’ ability to recognize it in themselves or others. The autobiographical texts contained in this dissertation emerged as I, the researcher, examined my own context in relation to who I was as a researcher, and in particular, as an educational researcher, and specifically, as a teacher, and even more specifically, a teacher with mental illness. My particular illnesses were anxiety and eating disorders. The texts are a collection of stories, journal entries, and report card comments interspersed with and analyzed in relation to literature that includes academic theory, research, poetry, and fiction. I am following in the tradition of others such as Pelias (2016) who puts themselves on display as a researcher “in the belief that an emotionally vulnerable, linguistically evocative, and sensuously poetic voice can place us closer to the subjects we wish to study” (p. 1). In this study I put mental illness on display to examine it from the perspective of curiosity and openness rather than from a place of stigma or fear. I surmise that if a teacher’s educational responsibility is to be open to what Biesta (2013) pens is the call to act in the intervention of others, then one such act is showing up as a human being, with one’s struggles and vulnerabilities, and being open to those of others.

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