Perception of risk for older people living with a mental illness: balancing uncertainty
Risk is commonly defined as a negative threat which needs to be controlled and mitigated; as a concept, it takes high priority in contemporary mental health services. Health-care organizations and clinicians are now required to use levels of risk as a benchmark for clinical decision-making. However, perceptions of risk change according to the lens through which it is viewed. A qualitative, exploratory research study was undertaken in an aged persons' mental health programme in Victoria, Australia, to explore the notion of risk from the multiple perspectives of service providers and consumers. Data were obtained through in-depth interviews, and analysis was based on the framework of Ritchie and Spencer. Balancing uncertainty emerged as a major theme, and comprised two subthemes: (i) complexity of risk from the perspective of providers of services; and (ii) complexity of safety from the perspectives of recipients of services. These differences emphasize a significant disjuncture between perceptions of risk and the potential for the individual needs and concerns of consumers to be subsumed under broader organizational issues. The uncertainty this tension highlights suggests the need to reconceptualize risk, incorporating the views and experiences of all stakeholders, particularly consumers and carers, to enhance recovery-oriented services and facilitate consumer participation within mental health services.