Receiving a mental health diagnosis: An exploration of service users’ experiences and staff responses to emergent themes
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In recent years, the personal and financial cost of mental illness has gained attention in the UK. Research indicates mental illness will affect one in four of the population at some point in their lives. This statistic is recognised in the increasing pressure on mental health services, which have historically been underfunded. Rhetoric surrounding the lack of investment, has led to a drive to ensure parity of esteem between physical and mental health services. To achieve full parity, it is essential this translates into the field of research. Although literature on mental illness is vast, the specific experience of receiving a mental health diagnosis has received little attention. This is an area of importance as it is an experience that can change people’s lives and impact on their identity. The current research, based in South Wales, gave voice to both service users and staff. Therefore it contributes to the knowledge base on the experience of receiving a diagnosis from two perspectives. This is achieved through the implementation of a novel concurrent multi-method design that incorporates a Research Advisory Panel of people with lived experience of mental illness. In-depth interviews and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis were used to capture the experience of the service user (Study 1). Emergent themes from this analysis were taken to staff focus groups and Thematic Analysis was conducted (Study 2). Study 1 findings evidenced the ‘bitter sweet’ nature of receiving a diagnosis, where support could be accessed but diagnosis did not mean cure and was accompanied by stigma. Study 2 indicated staff were aware of the service users’ journey, however they highlight the problems in the healthcare system that led to difficulties in fulfilling their roles and supporting recovery. Synthesising these two sets of findings resulted in ‘Recommendations for practice’ which emphasised: the importance of the relationship between the service user and staff, the opportunity at diagnosis to positively ‘frame’ new knowledge and the need for a community approach to mental illness.
PhD Thesis - School of Sport & Health Sciences
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