Strengths of families to limit relapse in mentally ill family members
Tlhowe, Tryphina Tlhalefi
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Studies have indicated that relapse is noted as a major problem facing mental health services both nationally and internationally whereby family members caring for mental health care users experience a serious burden. Factors commonly associated with relapse include poor adherence to treatment, substance abuse, co-morbid psychiatric illness, a co-morbid medical and or surgical condition, stressful life events and the treatment setting. Relapse prevention strategies have been identified and they include, empowering people with mental illness to recognize early warning signs of relapse in order to develop appropriate response plans as well as communication and understanding between the mentally ill person, their family, and specialist mental health system and community support services. The researcher was prompted by the problem of relapse faced by mental health services to explore and describe the strengths of families in assisting mental health care users to limit relapse and to formulate guidelines for psychiatric nurses to empower family members caring for mental health care users to limit relapse. A phenomenological design was used in this study and a purposive sampling technique was used to select participants who met the selection criteria. In-depth individual interviews were conducted with 15 family members. All interviews were recorded with an audio recorder after participants gave consent. Data saturation was achieved after 13 participants were interviewed and further two interviews confirmed data saturation. Field notes were written immediately after each interview. Data analysis was done according to Tesch as quoted by Creswell (2007:187) and the researcher and co-analyzer reached consensus on the themes in a meeting. The findings of research resulted in four main categories namely, accepting the condition of a mentally ill family member, having faith in God, involving a mentally ill family member in daily activities and being aware of what aggravates the mentally ill family member. The conclusion that can be made is that “acceptance through education” assisted family members in developing a positive attitude and acceptance of their feelings as well as the condition of their mentally ill family members. A strong spiritual base provides family members with strength and hope in times of adversity and teaches them how to have healthy relationships within the family unit and with others. It is also evident that sharing activities, as the things that all members of the family do together, reinforce and strengthen their togetherness and that if family members can be aware of what aggravates mentally ill family members by communicating well with them, that can bring harmony in families and ultimately limit relapse. Recommendations in this research are made for nursing education, nursing research and psychiatric nursing practice with guidelines for psychiatric nurses to empower families caring for mentally ill family members to use their strengths and contribute to limiting relapse.
- Health Sciences 
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