Assessment of caregiver experiences and psychoeducational needs of Chinese families for patients with chronic mental illnesses: A pilot study

Main Article Content

Harleen Bedi
Lisa Andermann
Wendy Chow
Samuel Law

Keywords

Assertive community treatment team, Caregiver, Family, Chronic mental illness, Chinese, Ethnicity

Abstract

Social support networks and family relationships have a profound impact on patients self-esteem, attitude towards illness and level of functioning. Family-based interventions have been shown to improve illness outcomes, strengthen family relationships, and reduce caregiver burden, as well as bring families coping with similar mental illnesses together, which allows caregivers and patients to share their experiences, break the social stigma associated with mental illnesses and build a strong support network. This project aimed to learn the experiences of families from Chinese ethnicity background in caring for their family members with illness, and the services they find most valuable in assisting them in their role as caregivers. Ten Chinese caregivers and nine clients with chronic mental illnesses, who were presently receiving treatment from an Assertive Community Treatment Team (ACTT), participated in a two-hour-long focus group. A self-developed questionnaire was utilized to ask open-ended questions from participants on their experience and major concerns as a caregiver for a family member with chronic mental illness. Grounded theory methodology was used to conduct a thematic analysis of the collected descriptive data. Our results show that caregivers experienced a lack of available resources to learn information about the medical illness of their family members; difficulty in helping family members to integrate to society; and service barriers due to a lack of support networks and services that are accessible for ethnic-minorities with language and functioning barriers. The particular ACTT service utilized by the participant caregivers in this study provided ethno-specific services, which were found to be a valuable resource by Chinese caregivers. The results from this study will argue the importance of community mental health services such as ACTT and others in developing family psychoeducation and assistance programs to meet the identified needs of ethnic minority caregivers at large.