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The Adolescent Body in the Face of Psychological Suffering : Individual, Social and Political Issues of Hospitalization in Child Psychiatry.

Cristina Figueiredo

Research Framework : In child psychiatric hospitalization services, the bodies of adolescents are suddenly extracted from the public sphere in which they should normally be. The middle school, the high school, the streets between home and school as well as the meeting places with peers are deserted by these young people hospitalized because of psychological disorders. These are either related to underlying somatic pathologies or caused by mental illness. The physical withdrawal of young people, subject to strict rules imposed by the hospital, including confinement and the impossibility of leaving without breaks supervised by staff, raises many questions for both patients and their families.

Objectives : This research aims to answer several of these questions : how to accept to put this body at rest, to remove it from the eyes of others ? How can it be restarted after this absence, find new landmarks, let it wander again in the public space and in contact with the bodies of those who circulate there without having left it ? The survey questions the place of the body in the process of learning individuality and the construction of their difference for hospitalized adolescents. The idea is that the hospital stay can be seen as a rite of passage for young people to return to the public world with a new self-image.

Methodology : Thanks to the field work carried out over two school years, adolescents, their parents and staff are given the opportunity to speak out. The investigation ended with a dive into the daily life of a hospital. Ethnographic observation and interviews were used by the author.

Results : It was possible to measure part of what is at stake between work on the body and mind, between the private and the public spaces, the social and the political in a place dedicated to suffering adolescents.

Conclusions : There is a double movement in the study of the withdrawal of adolescent bodies : first, that of invisibility. After a more or less long process of dialogue between professionals, adolescents and families, the socialization of bodies and minds allows a new visibility of these young bodies brought up to the standards of society. The relationships developed show how adolescents are placed at the centre of this dynamic, presenting them as thinking and acting subjects.

Contribution : This study contributes to the reflection on the adolescent situation, specifically by raising the question of physical and psychological norms that are dependent on professional and family perceptions. These norms also constantly reworked by adolescents even when they are suffering and under duress.