Community integration is a key component of recovery for individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMIs). The goal of the current study is to explore the nature and impact of safety concerns for experiences of communities for individuals with SMIs.
Using constructivist grounded theory, 30 semistructured interviews were analyzed to explore the depth and breadth of individuals’ safety concerns, how individuals manage these concerns, and how these concerns shape their community experiences.
Participants described various unsafe encounters related to neighborhood disorder, homelessness, traumatic experiences, substance use, stigma, and loss of relationships and multiple strategies to manage their safety. Many saw mental health services as a sanctuary from the dangers of their environment, providing support, resources, and coping skills. For many, future communities were envisioned within the context of safety.
Service providers should consider safety as a critical issue that impacts how individuals experience their current and future communities.