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Keywords:

  • adults;
  • mental illness;
  • nurse–patient relationships;
  • nursing;
  • phenomenology;
  • resilience

Abstract

Title. The phenomenon of resilience as described by adults who have experienced mental illness.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to explore the phenomenon of resilience in the lives of adult patients of mental health services who have experienced mental illness.

Background.  Mental illness is a major health concern worldwide, and the majority experiencing it will continue to battle with relapses throughout their lives. However, in many instances people go on to overcome their illness to lead productive and socially engaged lives. Contemporary mental health nursing practice primarily focuses on symptom reduction, and working with resilience has not generally been a consideration.

Method.  A descriptive phenomenological study was carried out in 2006. One participant was recruited through advertisements in community newspapers and newsletters and the others using the snowballing method. Information was gathered through in-depth individual interviews which were tape-recorded and subsequently transcribed. Colaizzi’s original seven-step approach was used for data analysis, with the inclusion of two additional steps.

Findings.  The following themes were identified: Universality, Acceptance, Naming and knowing, Faith, Hope, Being the fool and Striking a balance, Having meaning and meaningful relationships, and ‘Just doing it’. The conceptualization identified as encapsulating the themes was ‘Viewing life from the ridge with eyes wide open’, which involved knowing the risks and dangers ahead and making a decision for life amid ever-present hardships.

Conclusion.  Knowledge about resilience should be included in the theoretical and practical education of nursing students and experienced nurses. Early intervention, based on resilience factors identified through screening processes, is needed for people with mental illness.