Women's experiences when caring for relatives with mental illness in Northern Ireland: A qualitative study

Siobhan O'Neill, Geraldine Horigan, Ann-Marie Gray, Susan Gibson, Karen Meehan, Vivien Coates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Care in the Community policies has led to people with mental illness receiving treatment and care at home; however, few studies have examined the impact on carers of providing care to a person with mental illness. This was a qualitative study of the experiences of 11 women who are informal carers of people with a long-term mental illness. The study aimed to gain an understanding of the characteristics of this particular caregiving context that contributes to the stress of the role, and to identify the ways in which services could support women in these roles to promote their wellbeing and support the recovery of those they care for. Two groups of themes emerged: the first was the sources of stress, which included how they became a carer, family obligations and relationships and engaging with services. The second was the impact on health and wellbeing, including emotional and mental health, the need for, and absence of support, and coping with stress. The study highlighted a number of unique features of mental illness that lead to additional stress for the carer and render the usual support structures and delivery mechanisms inappropriate. The results pose challenges for those tasked with supporting carers in this context and developing interventions to promote recovery in the community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2033-e2040
Number of pages7
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number5
Early online date14 Dec 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was obtained from the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland. Approval for this research was obtained from Ulster University's ethical committee.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • care in the community
  • mental illness
  • mental health
  • carers
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy


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