Published online Sep 20, 2018. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v8.i3.79
Peer-review started: May 18, 2018
First decision: June 15, 2018
Revised: June 29, 2018
Accepted: July 10, 2018
Article in press: July 10, 2018
Published online: September 20, 2018
Illness narratives are stories of illness told by patients with chronic illness. One way of studying illness narratives is by considering illness narrative master plots. An examination of illness narrative master plots has revealed the importance of psycho-emotional information contained within the story that is told. There is a need for research to capture this information in order to better understand how common stories and experiences of illness can be understood and used to aid the mental well-being of individuals with chronic illness. The current editorial provides a suggestion of how this is possible. This editorial identifies that stories can be “mapped” graphically by combining emotional responses to the illness experience with psychological responses of the illness experience relating to hope and psychological adaptation. Clinicians and researchers should consider the evidence presented within this editorial as: (1) A possible solution for documenting the mental well-being of individuals with chronic illness; and (2) As a tool that can be used to consider changes in mental well-being following an intervention. Further research using this tool will likely provide insights into how illness narrative master plots are associated together and change across the course of a chronic illness. This is particularly important for illness narrative master plots that are difficult to tell or that are illustrative of a decline in mental well-being.
Core tip: This editorial provides implications for how illness narratives can be assessed. It identifies how and why the assessment is useful and crosses the academic disciplines of medical sociology and psychology.