‘I'm not an outsider, I'm his mother!’ A phenomenological enquiry into carer experiences of exclusion from acute psychiatric settings


  • Claire Wilkinson, RMN, BSc(Hons), PG.Dip., MSc.

  • Sue McAndrew, RMN, CPN Cert., BSc (Hons), MSc.

Claire Wilkinson, Trinity 2, Fieldhead, Ouchthorpe Lane, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 3SP, UK. Email: Claire.Wilkinson@swyt.nhs.uk


Contemporary standards and policies advocate carer involvement in planning, implementing, and evaluating mental health services. Critics have questioned why such standards and policies fail to move from rhetoric to reality, this particularly being applicable to carer involvement within acute psychiatric settings. As there is only limited UK research on this topic, this interpretive phenomenological study was undertaken to explore the perceived level of involvement from the perspective of carers of service users who were admitted to acute inpatient settings within the previous 2 years. Interviews were conducted with four individuals who cared for a loved one with a mental illness. The interview analysis was influenced by Van Manen, whose interpretive approach seeks to generate a deeper understanding of the phenomenon under study. Four main themes emerged: powerlessness, feeling isolated, needing to be recognized and valued, and a desire for partnership. The findings reflect the views expressed by carers in other studies, identifying that while carers seek to work in partnership with health-care professionals, at a clinical level they often feel excluded. The study concludes by discussing ways of improving and promoting carer involvement and advocating a partnership in care approach within acute psychiatry.