Family members' perspectives of hope when supporting a relative experiencing mental health problems

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Date
2023-06-18
Authors
McCarthy, Joan
Higgins, Agnes
McCarthy, Bridie
Flynn, Angela V.
Gijbels, Harry
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John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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Abstract
Current research views hope as a process that plays a positive role in the recovery of individuals with mental health problems. However, little attention has been given to the role of hope in the lives of their families. We aimed to address that gap. We deployed a qualitative descriptive design and carried out individual interviews with nine family members who supported a relative with mental health problems. A cross-comparison of the data generated three major themes: understandings of hope; factors that diminish hope and factors that nurture hope. The participants viewed hope as a positive and productive feeling or attitude that was life-affirming, and empowering. They also associated it with behaviours and dispositions such as attentiveness and empathy and the possibility of a return to a more stable and ‘normal’ life. The participants experienced hope as initially eroded when their relative was first diagnosed and institutionalized. Hope was further diminished due to the poor communication practices of some mental health professionals and the stress of the caring role itself. On the other hand, hope was nurtured through the support of other family members, friends, neighbours and peers. Acquiring knowledge and understanding about the relative's state of mental health nurtured hope and enabled the participants to have a more meaningful role in their recovery process. Practices of self-care such as independent activities and counselling also strengthened hope and some mental health professionals played a positive role in supporting these. Most striking about the reports of many of the participants was their assertion of their abiding love for their relative. Their account of their ability to see beyond the illness of their relative was an insight that we did not find in other accounts of the experiences of family members. We highlight the need for family members to have timely access to relevant information about their relatives' illness. We conclude that hope is relational at its core because of the interplay of intrapersonal, interpersonal and social factors that diminish or nurture it over time. Specifically, we propose that friends, neighbours and peer support groups as key actors in nurturing the hope of both family members and their relatives.
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Family , Hope , Information , Mental health , Recovery
Citation
McCarthy,J., Higgins, A., McCarthy, B., Flynn, A. V. and Gijbels, H. (2023) 'Family members' perspectives of hope when supporting a relative experiencing mental health problems', International Journal of Mental Health Nursing. doi: 10.1111/inm.13185