Aims and objectives: To explore parents' involvement in the informal and professional care of their young adult child with mental illness. A further aim was to examine concepts in the caring theory of 'Involvement in the light-Involvement in the dark' in the context of mental health care.
Background: Mental illness has increased among young people in high-income countries, and suicide is now the leading cause of death for this group. Because of their disease, these young people may have difficulty in carrying out daily, taken-for-granted, tasks. Consequently, they often become dependent on their parents, and their parents shoulder a considerable responsibility.
Design: A secondary descriptive design with a deductive content analysis was used.
Methods: Ten parents who have a son or daughter with long-term mental illness (aged 18-25 years) were interviewed. The deductive analysis was based on the caring theory of 'Involvement in the light-Involvement in the dark'.
Results: The results are described using the following concepts in the theory: 'Knowing', 'Doing', 'Being' and 'Attitude of the health professionals'. The result are to a great extent consistent with the 'Involvement in the dark' metaphor, which describes an isolated involvement in which the parents were not informed, seen or acknowledged by the health professionals. Continuous support by professionals with a positive attitude was described as being of decisive importance for meaningful involvement. The theory's transferability is strengthened to the mental health care context.
Conclusions: Parents have a considerable need for knowledge that can enable them to choose how they should act (be) and what they should do, in order to help and support their child.
Relevance to clinical practice: Since the patient, the family members and the professionals are mutually dependent, it is important to make use of each other's knowledge in a partnership to achieve a common caring strategy.
Keywords: caring theory; informal care; mental health care; parents; young adults.
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.