Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health


The aim of this study was to understand the meaning of resilience as described by people who experience schizophrenia. Building resilience is now a component of the professional standards for mental health nurses within Australia and of the mental health care delivered by health services. Very little is known about resilience in the context of schizophrenia and this thesis does not examine how to build resilience, it lays a foundation upon which to construct. Establishing the meaning of resilience for those who experience schizophrenia is an important first step in building understanding for both professionals and health services.

Fourteen people who live with schizophrenia engaged in semi-structured interviews and described the meaning of resilience for them. NVivo 9TM data analysis software was used to capture the interview transcripts and to manage the process of interpreting text using van Kaam's Psychophenomenological Method (Eppard & Anderson 1998). Analysis of participant data revealed that the meaning of resilience as described by people who experience schizophrenia is embedded within the struggle of striving to overcome the challenges brought by schizophrenia.

Within the struggle, resilience means adopting an attitude of striving to overcome the severe adversity caused by the experience of schizophrenia. The process of striving enables the person to learn about themselves, the effect of the schizophrenia illness on them, and how to manage it in the context of the life they want to live. Striving to overcome schizophrenia involves struggle, including repeated backwards steps and during this, the person seeks out and uses supportive people and resources. This also comes with challenges and resilience emerges from the process of competently overcoming these challenges, in the quest for improvement. The person then seeks out new challenges and experiences and grows life in ways unrelated to just living to manage the illness.

An implication of the findings for mental health professionals is that struggling, taking risks and exercising responsibility, even if it leads to a setback, are all important components of the meaning of resilience for people who experience mental illness.