Mental health service users' experiences of mental health care: an integrative literature review

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2015 Apr;22(3):171-82. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12202. Epub 2015 Feb 24.


A number of studies have highlighted issues around the relationship between service users and providers. The recovery model is predominant in mental health as is the recognition of the importance of person-centred practice. The authors completed an in-depth search of the literature to answer the question: What are service users' experiences of the mental health service? Three key themes emerged: acknowledging a mental health problem and seeking help; building relationships through participation in care; and working towards continuity of care. The review adds to the current body of knowledge by providing greater detail into the importance of relationships between service users and providers and how these may impact on the delivery of care in the mental health service. The overarching theme that emerged was the importance of the relationship between the service user and provider as a basis for interaction and support. This review has specific implications for mental health nursing. Despite the recognition made in policy documents for change, issues with stigma, poor attitudes and communication persist. There is a need for a fundamental shift in the provider-service user relationship to facilitate true service-user engagement in their care. The aim of this integrative literature review was to identify mental health service users' experiences of services. The rationale for this review was based on the growing emphasis and requirements for health services to deliver care and support, which recognizes the preferences of individuals. Contemporary models of mental health care strive to promote inclusion and empowerment. This review seeks to add to our current understanding of how service users experience care and support in order to determine to what extent the principles of contemporary models of mental health care are embedded in practice. A robust search of Web of Science, the Cochrane Database, Science Direct, EBSCO host (Academic Search Complete, MEDLINE, CINAHL Plus Full-Text), PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Social Sciences Full Text and the United Kingdom and Ireland Reference Centre for data published between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2012 was completed. The initial search retrieved 272 609 papers. The authors used a staged approach and the application of predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria, thus the numbers of papers for inclusion were reduced to 34. Data extraction, quality assessment and thematic analysis were completed for the included studies. Satisfaction with the mental health service was moderately good. However, accessing services could be difficult because of a lack of knowledge and the stigma surrounding mental health. Large surveys document moderate satisfaction ratings; however, feelings of fear regarding how services function and the lack of treatment choice remain. The main finding from this review is while people may express satisfaction with mental health services, there are still issues around three main themes: acknowledging a mental health problem and seeking help; building relationship through participation and care; and working towards continuity of care. Elements of the recovery model appear to be lacking in relation to user involvement, empowerment and decision making. There is a need for a fundamental shift in the context of the provider-service user relationship to fully facilitate service users' engagement in their care.

Keywords: communication; experience; mental health; mental health service user and relationships; service providers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*