The importance of relationship in understanding the experiences of spouse mental health carers
Lawn, Sharon Joy
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The burden of caring for family members with mental illness has been researched extensively. However, knowledge of spouse carers’ experiences is limited. In this article, we explore this from a carers’ perspective, with 28 spouse carers, using qualitative open-ended semi-structured interviews using a grounded theory approach informed by the social interactionism tradition to collect and analyze the data. We present six interrelated themes around the central theme of this being “a real and genuine relationship”. The findings indicate that caring for a spouse with severe mental illness is a unique role compared with other caring roles. First and foremost, spouse carers strive for the relationship with their partner, and accommodate mental illness into their lives to protect the relationship. Because of this, they often lead surreal lives marked by significant emotional pressure and isolation. This has implications for how mental health service providers work with and support spouse carers.