Young adults' experience of living with a mental illness in rural Western Australia: a grounded theory approach
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It is estimated that one in five Australians are affected by a mental disorder, and the associated burden of living with a mental illness will become one of the greatest health care issues during the next 20 years. Since the 1960s, the care of people with mental disorders has been transferred to community settings including to rural areas of Australia through the process of deinstitutionalisation. However, research on young adults living with a mental illness in rural communities is limited, and the multidimensional experience of this group of young adults has not been previously explored. This study, guided by grounded theory methodology, explored young adults' experience of living with a mental illness in rural Western Australia. This thesis presents the findings of interviews with nine participants aged between 18 and 30 and places the findings within the context of relevant scientific literature. The constant comparative method used in grounded theory analysis identified that the basic social psychological problem experienced by all participants was "being shut out". The problem of being shut out consisted of two aspects: "being excluded" and "withdrawing from society". In order to manage the problem of being shut out, participants engaged in the basic social psychological process of "seeking normality". In seeking normality participants moved from a state of being shut out to one whereby they sought to take part in ordinary social activities taken for granted by other members of society. The process of seeking normality consisted of three phases: "floundering", "taking charge", and "moving forward. Phase one of the process occurred primarily in the period prior to experiencing a turning point, which changed the participants' willingness to take control of their life and to take effective steps in reducing their isolation.Participants' experience of being shut out was not related to the duration of their illness but to their experience of seeking normality and the three conditions identified as influencing that experience. The findings, while supporting existing scientific literature, also present a new insight into young adults' experience of living with a mental illness in rural Western Australia. The findings of this study highlight the importance of health professionals' understanding young adults' experience of being shut out and to incorporate the increased knowledge and understanding into their clinical practice. Finally, the findings have implications on public education, healthcare services and healthcare policy in relation to young adults living with a mental illness.
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