Uncertainty in illness and personal recovery - experiences of people living with mental illness

Authors: Wolfensberger, P.

Conference: STTI European Conference

Dates: 6-8 June 2016

Place of Publication: Conference Catalogue


The presentation is meant to critically reflect on various aspects of an on going qualitative research project, including first insights into the data, as well as issues around the methodology.

Background: Uncertainty prevails in all human existence (Penrod 2001). Mishel (1988,1990), who defines uncertainty in illness as an inability to determine the meaning of illness related events, views it as a fluctuation that can either regress or cause no particular disruption. However, even though uncertainty in illness is a well-known concept in many health conditions including chronic illnesses, in mental health, with its strong interest in coping and adaptation strategies, the aspect of uncertainty has not been really investigated. Therefore, the study builds on this gap in the literature.

Aim: The aim of this research is to explore and evaluate the personal experiences of people living with mental illness in relation to their adaptation process to illness. The findings will help to create a unique understanding of the adaptation process to mental illness from a patient’s perspective.

Method: In-depth, face-to-face open-ended interviews are the main source of data for this qualitative research project that uses a constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz 2014).

Results: With ten interviews conducted so far and the analytical process on going, first results provide rich insights into peoples experiences living with mental illness and its challenges and chances.

Conclusions: Even though it is to early for final conclusions, certain aspects of the research have become evident already: Every single story of the participants need to be told and heard and provide implications for nurses and other health care professionals. The researcher/interviewer and his own story, his personality and his world view play an important role in the interaction with the participants as well as in the interpretation of the data.

Source: Manual