Sources of burdens on families of individuals with mental illness

Int J Rehabil Res. 2003 Jun;26(2):123-30. doi: 10.1097/00004356-200306000-00007.


Families of individuals with mental illness face a range of practical and emotional stresses. Studies that have addressed the sources of these burdens are limited. Literature suggests that burdens could come from the stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals with mental illness and inadequate public resources. Nevertheless, how public attitudes and availability of public resources have affected the burden on patients' families remains to be studied. This study set out to explore the relationship between stigma, accessibility of mental health facilities and family burden through individual interviews of patients' relatives in order to understand the burden on mentally ill patients' relatives from their perspectives. Ten interviewees from two out-patient psychiatric clinics were recruited and interviewed. Each interviewee had at least one family member receiving out-patient psychiatric services. Altogether 11 mentally ill patients were involved. Data analyses showed that much of the burden was related to stigma and to lack of mental health and rehabilitation services. Consequences included social isolation of the families, difficulties experienced by the mentally ill patients when trying to obtain competitive employment and financial difficulties. Subjective burden resulting from social stigma included frustration, anxiety, low self-esteem and helplessness. Implications of the findings to social policy and development of mental health services were discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Bipolar Disorder / economics
  • Bipolar Disorder / psychology*
  • Bipolar Disorder / therapy
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Frustration
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice
  • Schizophrenia / economics
  • Schizophrenia / therapy
  • Schizophrenic Psychology*
  • Shame
  • Social Isolation
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology