Perceptions and Needs of Parents during a Young Adult's First Psychiatric Hospitalization: “We're All on This Little Island and We're Going to Drown Real Soon”

University of Manitoba, School of Nursing, 214 Helen Glass Centre,Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 2N2, Canada. diana
Issues in Mental Health Nursing 04/2010; 31(4):242-7. DOI: 10.3109/01612840903383992
Source: PubMed


A young person's first psychiatric hospitalization can present a crisis for the family. This initial contact with the mental health care system and health care providers, whether positive or negative, has the potential to set the foundation for all future interactions. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of a young person's first hospitalization on his or her parents and to determine the parents' perspectives on their own emotional and practical support needs. Ten parents (nine mothers and one father) of a young person aged 18 to 25 were recruited through local support groups and by snowball sampling. Based on Aguilera and Messick's (1986) crisis theory, participants were asked about their perception of the event, coping methods they used, and support systems they engaged while their adult child was hospitalized. Six themes were identified: feeling relief about receiving a diagnosis; shock and disbelief associated with the diagnosis of a mental illness; isolation associated with the stigma of mental illness; feeling excluded during the discharge process; and grieving for the loss associated with an altered future. The results revealed that participants received their support from family, friends, and support groups and did not find mental health care providers to be helpful or supportive. The participants provided recommendations for those who work with families experiencing the crisis of a first psychiatric hospitalization.

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