An Illustrative Case-Specific Object: High

High is the name of an abstract object given to describe the perceived current mental health status of a client. For most members of the team, the concept that a client is High has a particular meaning with implications for how they might engage with them.

During the period of observation with the AO team, a number of telephone conversations were overheard between an AO team member and individual clients. The team appeared to collectively hold a construction that when they interpret a service user to be in a high phase of their illness, they would become very difficult to engage with and are almost unmanageable. On a number of occasions, the team were observed receiving phone calls from service users who were obviously distressed due to the volume and speed at which they were talking on the phone. During these calls, the team attempted to remain calm and reassure the service user that they were doing all they can to support their needs.

The symbolic meaning of High is one that does not simply refer to an individual being inebriated or intoxicated. Rather, the team appear to have collectively constructed a meaning for High that is used when they consider a service user to be in a High phase of their illness. Overall, this meaning that has been created for the abstract concept High is one that represents the AO team’s portrayal of an individual being unpredictable, posing a potential risk to themselves and others due to this unpredictability, becoming more difficult to engage with due to their bizarre behaviour and actions. Being High acts as a defining feature of a particular phase of an individuals’ mental health condition.

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