Response pattern of the families of the mentally ill
Thirty Chinese adults, in Taiwan, Republic of China, were interviewed in the summer of 1985 for the purpose of exploring their experiences as relatives of mental patients. The concept of pre-crisis was selected as the framework. A descriptive qualitative research methodology and content analysis were used. The results revealed five different aspects in relatives' responses toward the occurrence of mental illness in their family members. The aspects were subjective and objective sufferings, blame and anger, grief versus hope, resentment versus confusion, and constructive suffering versus anger.
This study also indicates the importance of qualitative research in concept clarification. Based on the findings of this investigation, the concept of pre-crisis is defined as a state of thinking, feeling, and acting following the occurrence of a stressful event. The attributes include worry and anxiety, grief and depression, anger and frustration, strong teachable moment, and high probability of achieving a good health level.
With the information obtained from this study, several potentially useful findings may be extrapolated. A clear understanding and a more accurate description of relatives' responses to the occurrence of mental illness in their family members are noted. By extending the current knowledge about relatives' needs and about their reactions to the mentally ill patients and the mental illness, mental health professionals may come closer to developing a more practical plan for serving these people, such as public awareness of the mental health/illness and the care of the mentally ill, promotion of advocacy for the relatives and the patients of the mentally ill, and organization of self-support groups made up of the patient's families.
The hypotheses generated from the findings of this study include: (a) education concerning mental illness, including a knowledge of the disease and practical information about its management, to the relatives of the mentally ill reduces families' degree of worry, grief, and anger and (b) self-support groups made up of the relatives of the mentally ill provide opportunities for sharing sufferings and methods of problem-solving with group members.