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Psychiatr Q. 1996 Fall;67(3):221-34.

Examination of grief among family members of individuals with serious and persistent mental illness.

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School of Social Work, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Many family members experience a profound sense of loss when a relative becomes mentally ill. The adjustment to this loss is similar to grief as a response to death. The extent of this grief may be explained by personal characteristics of family members, the severity of the illness, and the extent of social support available. A family member's emotional response to a relative's mental illness may be exacerbated by increases in both objective and subjective burden. While grief among families with a seriously mentally ill relative is the emotional response to reflecting on the loss of an emotionally healthy relative, burden reflects the present state of responsibility for the ill relative, expressed in both subjective and objective terms. In this study, family member characteristics, social support, objective burden and subjective burden contributed to explaining expressed grief among 225 family members of seriously mentally ill individuals. Mental health and family support professionals are encouraged to recognize the grief response in family members with a mentally ill relative.

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