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Health Soc Care Community. 2009 Mar;17(2):125-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00803.x. Epub 2008 Aug 11.

An emotive subject: insights from social, voluntary and healthcare professionals into the feelings of family carers for people with mental health problems.

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  • 1Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK.


Caring for people with mental health problems can generate a whole range of positive and negative emotions, including fear, disbelief, guilt and chaos as well as a sense of purpose, pride and achievement. This paper explores the emotions of family carers from the perspectives of social, voluntary and healthcare professionals. Sixty-five participants were interviewed, the sample included directors, managers and senior staff from social, voluntary and healthcare organisations. Participants were encouraged to talk in detail about their understanding of the emotions of family carers. Findings highlight a rich understanding of the broad spectrum of carer emotions and the huge emotional adjustments that are often involved. Diagnosis was seen to be imbued with negative emotions, such as fear, anger and denial. However, feelings of hopelessness and desolation were often counterbalanced by feelings of hope, satisfaction and the emotional rewards of caring for a loved one. Participants noted a clear lack of emotional support for family carers, with accompanying feelings of marginalisation, particularly during transitions and especially involving young carers as well as ethnic minorities. By way of contrast, carer support groups were suggested by professionals to be a holistic, effective and economical way of meeting carers' emotional needs. This paper explores the challenge of family carer emotions from the perspective of managers and practitioners and draws out implications for research, policy and practice.

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