The journey from despair to hope: an exploration of the phenomenon of psychological distress in women residing in British secure mental health services

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2012 Sep;19(7):618-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2012.01909.x. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


This paper reports the findings of a descriptive phenomenological study that aimed to elicit and describe the experience of psychological distress as expressed by a group of women compulsorily detained within secure mental health services in the U.K. A fundamental objective of the study was to contribute to the existing evidence base that supports the care and treatment needs of this severely traumatized and challenging patient group. We argue that service providers and clinical practitioners could be better informed about the unique care and treatment needs of this severely traumatized and challenging patient group when working with them. A descriptive phenomenological approach developed by Giorgi was used to elicit the lived experiences of 'psychological distress' from a sample of female patients resident within a high secure hospital and an independent medium secure hospital. The findings indicate that a treatment plan which includes a combination of prescribed medication, informal support networks, intensive individual therapy and active engagement in a therapeutic life skills programme can be extremely beneficial. Most notably in helping to reduce the frequency of both internally and externally directed violent behaviour in this vulnerable client group.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • United Kingdom
  • Violence / psychology