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Exploring the meaning of caring: how informal caring for somebody experiencing mental health difficulties, and the language used to talk about it, are understood by carers, family members, mental health service-users, and professionals

Palmer, Michelle (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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While much is known about caring and mental health difficulties from a broad range of theoretical perspectives, less is known about the lived experience of caring for a relative experiencing mental health difficulties. This thesis therefore adds to the developing literature in this area by taking a phenomenological approach to understanding the meaning of caring as described by service-users, carers, family members, and mental health professionals, in their own words. For these participants, the language of caring was presented as problematic. On the one hand, it was helpful, linked to being valued, visible, and opening up access to help and support; while on the other, it was seen as threatening to the primary relational qualities of the pre-existing close relationships that had led to taking on caring responsibilities in the first place. In terms of the implications for mental health service design and delivery, a family-sensitive ethos involving open communication and information sharing was seen as essential in developing meaningful relationships between service-users, their families, and professionals, to the benefit of all concerned. Supporting familial relationships in a way that goes beyond simple characterisations of ‘carer’ and ‘cared-for’, focusing on the essential relatedness of the family system, and helping families to develop their own resources and resilience, was also seen as a key way in which mental health services could support the service-users and families they work with.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Larkin, Michael (1971-)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
Department:School of Psychology
Keywords:caring, mental health difficulties, serious mental illness, interpretative phenomenological analysis, multi-perspectival design, focus groups, written emotional disclosure
Subjects:BF Psychology
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:2984
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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