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The last taboo: The experience of violence in first‐episode psychosis caregiving relationships [2018]

Objectives
Informal caregiving relationships play an important role in facilitating recovery outcomes in psychosis. The relationship can serve as a source of positive experiences that co‐exist alongside common challenges typically associated with mental health problems. People with psychosis, when compared to the general population, are more likely to perpetrate acts of violence, a relationship that is particularly evident during the first psychosis episode. Although victims of service user violence are typically people already known to them, such as informal carers, there remains a lack of understanding about their caring experiences and needs. This study sought to address gaps in the literature by exploring the subjective accounts of informal carers supporting a relative experiencing their first episode of psychosis who has also behaved violently towards them.

Design
A cross‐sectional design was employed.

Methods
Individual semi‐structured interviews, which were audio recorded and later transcribed for analyses, were undertaken with a convenience sample of eight carers drawn from a specialist early psychosis service. Interview questions focused on their experiences of patient violence, the subjective impact, and coping strategies. An interpretative phenomenological approach was used to analyse the data.

Results
Participants were mostly living with their relative with psychosis and were typically female, parents, and from a black and minority ethnic background. Data analyses identified seven key themes from participant interviews including the lack of predictability over when the violence occurred, being scared and fearful, keeping quiet about what happens at home and in the caregiving relationship, and staying safe.

Conclusions
Reports by informal carers about experiencing violence and victimization from their relatives with psychosis are an important issue in some caregiving relationships during the first episode. Developing a more informed understanding of the specific needs of these carers and the caregiving relationship is indicated. The implications for service providers are discussed.

Practitioner points
–  Carers were exposed to a broad range of patient violence, which included being kicked and having weapons used against them. The violence typically occurred within carers’ homes, when no other people were around.
–  Patient violence impacted negatively on carer emotional and physical functioning, which included leaving carers living in fear of their own safety and what might become of their relative.
–  The results highlight the importance of routinely asking first‐episode carers about their experience of patient violence.
–  The development of interventions (e.g., identification of early triggers, de‐escalation) that are able to take account of the ongoing nature and complexity of the caregiving relationship but are purposefully aimed at supporting carers to remain safe in their relationship should be explored for their impact.

Juliana Onwumere Grace Parkyn Stephanie Learmonth Elizabeth Kuipers

Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice, 05 February 2018

DOI

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