Contemporary Dynamics of Caring- A Qualitative Study of the Relationship between Mental Health Professionals and Carers of People with Long Term Mental Health Conditions

Walsh, Jeremy (2015)
English
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At the heart of this study is the experience of caring for someone with a long term mental health condition and the relationship between mental health professionals and carers, who are largely family, partners or friends. The study has been conducted at a time when there is increasing awareness of carers but at the same time limited understanding of the day-to-day lives of people caring for someone with a mental health condition.\ud Using a psychoanalytically informed psychosocial approach seven carers and eight mental health professionals were interviewed using a free association narrative interviewing approach, which provided a framework for participants to share their experiences.\ud In the next phase a combined focus group of 16 participants was held, comprising nine carers and seven mental health professionals and vignettes were utilised to facilitate discussion. Data from both methods was analysed using a reflexive and psychoanalytical approach which encouraged the emotional response of the researcher to be taken into account. Alongside, a thematic analysis was undertaken to enable cross-referencing.\ud The study found that the disturbing nature of mental health conditions directly affects carers and mental health professionals, and within this environment carers place high value on support that is built on a meaningful relationship with a mental health professional. However this is not always available as professionals seek to defend themselves from the distress that is bound up in the caring experience, and therefore they idealise carers and maintain professional distance, with the result that carers’ anxiety is not dealt with effectively.

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