Canadian Families Caring for Members With Mental Illness: A Vicious Cycle Academic Article uri icon

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  • The purpose of this qualitative, descriptive study was to explore the perspectives of individuals who were caring for a family member with a mental illness, with particular attention to housing, quality of supports, and formal care services. Eleven focus groups with family caregivers (N = 75) were conducted. Both individual and team thematic analyses were undertaken until interpretations of the experiences of the participants were inductively developed and conceptualized into a holistic interpretation. Findings revealed that family caregivers were part of a “circle of care,” supporting the independence of the individual with mental illness while attempting to protect their family member with mental illness. However, findings suggested that this circle of care led to a “vicious cycle” of caregiving. Three major themes were identified: witnessing inadequacies, working behind the scenes, and creating a better world. Health-promoting family nursing practice and policy implications, as well as areas for further research, are discussed.


  • Ward-Griffin, Catherine
  • Schofield, Ruth
  • Vos, Sandra
  • Coatsworth-Puspoky, Robin

publication date

  • May 2005