An exploratory-descriptive study of perceived family burden by family members of individuals with a serious mental illness in the uThukela District of KwaZulu-Natal.
Buthelezi, Tholakele Maria.
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The global change in the provision of mental health care services from long-term institutionalization to community-based care brought changes in the care giving responsibilities. This approach shifted the responsibility for the care of individuals with serious mental illness from psychiatric hospitals where health professionals were the primary care-givers, to community health care services where the family members are now the primary care-givers and the major sources of psychosocial support for the individuals with serious mental illness (Chamber, et al., 2001; Seloilwe, 2006). The aim of this study was therefore to explore the care giving burden as perceived by family members of individuals with serious mental illness and the association between their coping strategies and the perceived burden. Methodology: An exploratory-descriptive, non- experimental quantitative study was adopted to describe and explore perceptions of care giving burden by family members, and the association between the perceived burden and the family coping strategies. The Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI) was used to collect data on perceived family burden and the Carers Assessment of Management Index (CAMI) to collect data on coping strategies. The questionnaire was self- administered to 120 family members of the individuals with serious mental illness who accompanied their relatives at the clinic and who met the sample inclusion criteria. Findings: The findings revealed that family members in the uThukela District were experiencing great burden while caring for their relative with serious mental illness. The most influencing factors were the worsened condition of a relative with unmanageable behaviour, poverty, lack of resources including knowledge, rehabilitation centres. Over dependency of a relative with serious mental illness on family members was one of the greatest worries of the participants. The situation negatively affects on the social lives of the family members and on their well being. In terms of coping strategies, family members were found to be using both problem-focused and emotional-focused strategies to balance their coping abilities.