The Relationship Between the Perceived Risk of Harm by a Family Member with Mental Illness and the Family Experience

Judith Katz, Deborah Medoff, Li Juan Fang, Lisa B Dixon
Community Mental Health Journal 2015, 51 (7): 790-9
Family members of people with serious mental illness (SMI) at times report that they act to stop their ill relative from self harm or harming others. This study examines the relationship between the perception of risk of harm and family distress, burden, empowerment, coping, physical and mental health, appraisal of the caregiving experience, family communication, and family functioning. The study is a secondary analysis of baseline data collected for a randomized study of the family-to-family peer driven education program (FTF). Four hundred thirty-four enrolled individuals who were seeking to participate in FTF completed survey items that asked if they had tried to stop or prevent their ill family member from harming themselves or others in the last 30 days. Participants who perceived a recent risk of harm by their ill relative reported more negative appraisals of caregiving, greater psychological distress, poorer mental health and greater objective burden compared with those who did not perceive a recent risk of harm. The results suggest that families of persons with SMI should be asked about perceived risk of harm to self and others, and the presence of perceived risk of harm should serve as a red flag indicating the need for further evaluation of the family experience and additional support for the family.

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