Exploring Coping Strategies of Culturally Diverse Family Members of Psychiatric Patients

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 11:10 AM

Phyllis Eaton, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC
School of Nursing, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

Learning Objective 1: 1.Describe the implications of identifying coping strategies of culturally diverse family members of psychiatric patients.

Learning Objective 2: 2.Develop strategies to help promote positive coping in families with mental illness.

Purpose: Mental illness affects more than 25% of the world’s population (World Health Organization, 2002).  The impact of this illness extends beyond the individual and into the family (Saunders, 2003). Post hospitalization, family members of psychiatric patients are being given the responsibility of providers of care (Enns, Reddon, & McDonald, 1999). Many families think they do not have the coping strategies to deal with this situation (Levine & Ligenza, 2002). Ineffective family coping may negatively impact the  treatment outcomes for their mentally ill relative. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health (2001) cultural differences are present in how a family copes with mental illness.  Identification of the family member’s coping strategies may aid in helping the family cope with their situation (O’Connell, 2006).

Methods: In this exploratory research study, the coping strategies of 45 family members of hospitalized psychiatric patients were examined using a descriptive, correlational mixed method research approach.  This study was guided by the Neuman Systems Model (Neuman, 1995) and using the Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scales (F-COPES; McCubbin, Olson, & Larsen, 1991) and semi-structured interviews.

Results: This study found that these family members used more emotion-focused coping strategies than problem-focused coping strategies.  The common coping strategies used by family members of hospitalized psychiatric patients were communicating with immediate family, acceptance of their situation, passive appraisal, avoidance, and spirituality.

Conclusion: Using the Neuman Systems Model to help understand the environmental forces that impact the client system will offer nurses insight into the family’s coping ability.  By learning more about how culturally diverse families cope with mental illness, nurses will be able to provide interventions that support healthy family functioning. This understanding of how the family member of a psychiatric patient copes is essential in providing the best outcomes for the entire family.