Assistant Professor Melissa Edmondson Smith is a co-author of new research published in Qualitative Health Research titled "The Ties That Bind and Unbound Ties: Experiences of Formerly Homeless Individuals in Recovery From Serious Mental Illness and Substance Use."
This report explores the nature and quality of social ties of formerly homeless individuals in recovery from serious mental illness and substance abuse and how these ties relate to experiences of community. Using grounded theory and cross-case analysis techniques, we analyzed 34 qualitative interviews conducted with predominantly racial/ethnic minority individuals receiving mental health services. Participants described a range of involvement and experiences in the mental health service and mainstream communities indicating a combination of weak or strong ties in these communities. Across participants, two broad themes emerged: ties that bind and obstacles that “get in the way” of forming social ties. Salient subthemes included those related to family, cultural spaces, employment, substance abuse, stigma and mental health service providers and peers. The current study integrates our understanding of positive and negative aspects of social ties and provides a theoretical framework highlighting the complexity of social ties within mainstream and mental health service communities.