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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2011;32(1):46-72. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.522755.

Exploring lived experiences of persons with severe mental illness: a review of the literature.

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  • 1University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing, Austin, Texas, USA.


This paper describes a literature review concerning the use of phenomenology to explore the experiences of persons with severe mental illness. Data from 35 publications were abstracted and summarized. The congruence between philosophical underpinnings and methods are critiqued. Findings of individual studies are summarized and reveal desires for normalcy, social relationships, meaningful activities, and opportunities for involvement and participation in treatment. The experience of suffering demonstrated the grave effect of severe mental illness on the individual's life experience. Utilization of phenomenology as a philosophy and methodology can guide the development of interventions that honor individual experience and meaning.

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