Personal narratives of learning self‐management: Lessons for practice based on experiences of people with serious mental illness
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INTRODUCTION: Clinicians are challenged to deliver self-management interventions in recovery-oriented services for individuals living with serious mental illnesses. Little is known about how people learn self-management skills and questions remain about how best to deliver support. To offer insights for delivery, this research describes the lived experiences of learning self-management and the meaning of those experiences within recovery journeys and the context of health-care delivery. METHODS: Design followed van Manen's approach of phenomenology through an occupational therapist's lens. Using purposeful criterion sampling until saturation, 25 adults with psychosis experiences (8-40 years) from six community-based specialised mental health programs were interviewed. Conceptual maps were cocreated depicting key learning experiences, intersections with services, and recommendations. Data reduction, reconstruction and explication of meaning occurred concurrently, and multiple strategies were used to transparently support an open, iterative, reflexive process. FINDINGS: Participants described eight essential tasks to live well, learned often serendipitously, taking up to 15-30 years to find the right combination of supports and self-management strategies to achieve what they felt was a life of quality. Self-management needs were not routinely addressed by services and extended beyond illness or crisis management while participants grappled with emotions, self-concept, relationships, and occupational issues. Participants asked providers to "teach us to teach ourselves"; "invite clients" to the decision table; and deal directly with emotions of fear, shame, and trust with respect to self and relationships. Findings challenge conventional conceptualisations of self-management to consider clients living interdependent lives with tasks performed in context, dynamically influenced by complex personal, socio-ecological relationships. CONCLUSIONS: Participants' narratives compel increasing access to strategic personalised self-management learning opportunities as an effort to shorten the prolonged recovery paths. Findings offer ways providers can understand and address eight self-management learning tasks from the perspective of lived experiences. Self-management was enmeshed with recovery, health, and building a life.
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