An assignment I have done:
Much has been written about social lives of people with severe mental illness (SMI). Before social lives can flourish, however, people with SMI must first get close to other people. We studied this closeness by holding three hour-long focus groups at Fountain House, a community mental health agency in New York City. We found that closeness between two people with SMI is challenging because someone with depression, for example, may have trouble understanding someone with a different disorder (e.g., schizophrenia). Romantically, closeness is also challenging—SMI is hard to explain to partners. In the workplace, closeness is difficult because SMI can alienate co-workers. It could push them away. In mental health programs, we found that closeness has more of a chance to develop (1) during evening and weekend activities; (2) when activities are planned often enough to prevent isolation; and (3) when staff reach out to people before extended absence causes distance.
The research questions and objectives of this study were to identify social relationships between people with severe mental illness (SMI). The study focused on the closeness between individuals with SMI and how they find and develop close relationships with others in their lives. They asked questions related to the process and development of different types of these close relationships with people that had all types of SMI.
This study held three focus groups that lasted an hour each at Fountain House, a community mental health agency in New York City. Twenty people participated in this study. The researchers were unable to collect characteristic data on the participants in these focus groups. Charts and other sources were also unavailable for them to use. The members of Fountain House voluntarily agreed to help recruit participants for the study. The focus groups were a mix between male and female participants that were racially diverse. These participants had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and half of them had co-occurring substance use disorders. The researchers stopped collecting data after the three focus groups because similar themes and patterns kept reoccurring.
To collect the data, the researchers facilitated, audio-taped and transcribed each focus group. They revolved around ways people with SMI become close with others and form relationships in day to day encounters (e.g., daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly). The types of relationships talked about during the focus groups were: friends, romantic partners, coworkers, colleagues at school and people in mental health programs. Excluding family relations was done because these are sometimes immune to closeness as in already being close or distant.
Jonathan D. Prince PhD, Jacqueline Ansbrow MSW, Anne Bennedict MSW, Joanna DiCostanzo MPH, Olivia Mora MSW, LCSW & Andrew D. Schonebaum MA (2017) Making connections: Severe mental illness and closeness with other people, Social Work in Mental Health, 15:1, 1-13, DOI: 10.1080/15332985.2016.1148095