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Burden of care, psychological distress and satisfaction with services in the relatives of acutely mentally disordered adults.

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University Department of Psychiatry, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


This project aimed to examine the views of relatives nominated as the "most significant other person" by acutely mentally disordered patients who were newly referred to either a community-based (n = 24) or a district general hospital based (n = 17) psychiatric service. Relatives were asked about their satisfaction with these services, the psychological impact on them of caring for a mentally disordered relative, and levels of subjective and objective burden of care at the time of referral and 6 months later. The findings of this study suggested that the initial severity of an acute psychiatric disorder rather than the type of psychiatric service provided is more strongly associated with objective and subjective levels of burden. At follow-up, psychological distress as measured on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) was associated with the objective burden of caring for a relative with psychosis or major affective disorder, but not other conditions. Dissatisfied relatives tended to be those who remained distressed at 6 months according to GHQ scores or those recording continually high levels of subjective burden on the Burden of Care Schedule (BCS). Interventions to reduce subjective and objective burden should be targeted at the group demonstrating persistent stress.

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