Creating meaning - understanding the experiences of people living with mental illness in Switzerland: a qualitative study.

Authors: Wolfensberger, P.

http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/34412/

Mental illnesses have a large impact on individuals, their families and friends and communities. People living with mental illness often face discrimination and not the least within the health-care system. However, there is an ongoing shift from a paternalistic to a person-centred approach in the treatment of people living with mental illness. User involvement in the development of care has become common practice and personal recovery rather than cure is at the core of treatment. However, to further improve professional practice, there is a need to understand more about the experiences of people living with mental illness.

The aim of this research is to explore and evaluate the personal experiences of people living with mental illness in Switzerland and to identify aspects that are most relevant to this population in living with and adapting to mental illness. Therefore, the study aims to create an understanding of the adaptation process to mental illness from a patient perspective.

A constructivist and reflexive Grounded Theory approach was chosen for the main study. Ten participants, people living with mental illness in Switzerland, were interviewed. However, the project also includes a preliminary study, comprising a focus group with mental health professionals, that used qualitative thematic analysis.

Three categories were generated from the data of the main study: Constructing explanations refers to the process of participants trying to understand what is going on in their lives. Defining self-identity points out that people living with mental illness provide themselves with an understanding of who they are. Making sense-of-life refers to the aspect, that the participants give situations meaning and take control over them. The three categories form the theoretical framework of the Creating Meaning Theory, which summarises the experiences of the people interviewed for this study. The findings support existing theories but add a new and unique understanding of people’s experiences in living with mental illness that will help to further improve concepts such as empowerment and recovery.

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