“It Helps You Not Feel So Bad—Feel Like You Again”: The Importance of Community for Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilitiesedit
Community integration refers to the notion that individuals with disabilities should have opportunities to live, work, engage with others, and enjoy recreational activities in the same manner as peers without disabilities. Community integration research has emerged as a high priority among mental health advocates, policy makers, and researchers. Currently, our understanding of community integration comes primarily from definitions and theories provided by researchers. Although these are helpful, it is important to uncover the ways in which mental health consumers understand and experience community for themselves. To this end, 30 individuals with psychiatric disabilities were engaged in semi-structured interviews about their definitions of community, the types of communities they belong to, and the relative importance they place on community inclusion and participation. It is expected that results of this study will inform our conceptualization and measurement of community integration; and call attention to the need to develop new programs or refine existing interventions to promote community integration of individuals with psychiatric disabilities.