Original Articles

Caring for a Relative with Schizophrenia: Understandings, Challenges and the Interface with Mental Health Professionals

Published in: Journal of Psychology in Africa
Volume 21, issue 2, 2011 , pages: 239–244
DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2011.10820452
Author(s): Stanley MolefiStellenbosch University, South Africa, Leslie SwartzStellenbosch University, South Africa


This study explored the experiences of families of people with schizophrenia, their understandings of schizophrenia as a mental disorder, their experience of living with a relative with schizophrenia, and their subsequent contact with mental health professionals. A convenience sample of 10 families (four Xhosa speaking families as well as six Coloured families) was drawn from a population of persons with schizophrenia receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital in the Western Cape area. In each case, a family caregiver was interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. Data were content analyzed. Results suggest a great deal of confusion around what schizophrenia is by carer families. Verbal forms of aggression between the index person and the family occurred, including violent expressions from the person with schizophrenia. The person with schizophrenia and his or her family or relatives were stigmatized and had poor relationships with mental health professionals. With deinstitutionalization, the families of people with schizophrenia are or need to be the bedrock in the lives of these people. The stance taken by all family members interviewed suggests that it may indeed be helpful to follow more closely the evidence from international literature and to involve families more centrally in treatment.

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