The importance of relationship in understanding the experiences of spouse mental health carers

Sharon Lawn, Janne McMahon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    23 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The burden of caring for family members with mental illness has been researched extensively; however, knowledge of spouse carers' experiences is limited. In this article, we explore this from a carers' perspective, with 28 spouse carers, using qualitative open-ended semistructured interviews and a grounded theory approach informed by the social interactionism tradition to collect and analyze the data. We present six interrelated themes around the central theme of this being "a real and genuine relationship." The findings indicate that caring for a spouse with severe mental illness is a unique role compared with other caring roles. First and foremost, spouse carers strive for the relationship with their partner and accommodate mental illness into their lives to protect the relationship. Because of this, they often lead surreal lives marked by significant emotional pressure and isolation. This has implications for how mental health service providers work with and support spouse carers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)254-266
    Number of pages13
    JournalQualitative Health Research
    Volume24
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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