The impact of mental illness on family members
Background: Mental illness is a common problem managed in general practice. It is often not appreciated that the effects of mental illness extend beyond the patient to the family. The effect of a serious mental illness on the health of family members has been studied, but not in relation to the types of mental illnesses seen in general practice. Objective: The author uses the literature to examine his experiences of factors which affect families who contain a mentally ill member. In doing so he examines issues relating to the care of such families. Some means by which assistance may be given to families will be outlined in a paper to be published in this journal later this year. Discussion: Family members experience a number of stresses. The common stresses seen in general practice include the perceived sensitivity of a mentally ill patient, the perceived problems with medication, a fear of suicide and a restriction of personal time. Limited evidence suggests that the stresses have a negative effect on the health of family members
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