JOURNAL ARTICLE

Race-related differences in the experiences of family members of persons with mental illness participating in the NAMI Family to Family Education Program

Melissa Edmondson Smith, Michael A Lindsey, Crystal D Williams, Deborah R Medoff, Alicia Lucksted, Li Juan Fang, Jason Schiffman, Roberto Lewis-Fernández, Lisa B Dixon
American Journal of Community Psychology 2014, 54 (3-4): 316-27
25213395
Families play an important role in the lives of individuals with mental illness. Coping with the strain of shifting roles and multiple challenges of caregiving can have a huge impact. Limited information exists regarding race-related differences in families' caregiving experiences, their abilities to cope with the mental illness of a loved one, or their interactions with mental health service systems. This study examined race-related differences in the experiences of adults seeking to participate in the National Alliance on Mental Illness Family-to-Family Education Program due to mental illness of a loved one. Participants were 293 White and 107 African American family members who completed measures of problem- and emotion-focused coping, knowledge about mental illness, subjective illness burden, psychological distress, and family functioning. Multiple regression analyses were used to determine race-related differences. African American caregivers reported higher levels of negative caregiving experiences, less knowledge of mental illness, and higher levels of both problem-solving coping and emotion-focused coping, than White caregivers. Mental health programs serving African American families should consider targeting specific strategies to address caregiving challenges, support their use of existing coping mechanisms and support networks, and increase their knowledge of mental illness.

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