Individual, Family, and Community Education ETDs


Reshma Kamal

Publication Date



This narrative study examines life histories of family caregivers caring for a mentally ill relative dealing with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder through different stages of the mental illness. Its goal was to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of the families in question during three different stages of the mental illness which centered on mental illness as the life- course stage (Denzin, 1989). A narrative analysis of the life histories of the main caregivers through three different stages of the mental illness was conducted. They were life before, during, and after the onset of the mental illness. Family Systems theory was used as a theoretical framework in order to understand the daily lived experiences of the family. It is well documented that families of the mentally ill suffer from stress and burden, and the stigma usually associated with mental illness. The findings suggested that each stage of the mental illness is different and that the families in question experienced different levels of burden and stress at each stage. For such families tailoring the interventions to the stage that they are going through can help providers target the areas that require most assistance at a particular stage and in the long run may help with providing the family caregivers with a better quality of life. For the families interviewed, the stage where family caregivers experienced an added amount of burden, stress, and psychological distress was during the onset and diagnosis of the mental illness. This was mainly due to the behavioral changes of the mentally ill relative which changed family relationships and homeostasis. Recent research in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder show that a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatment early in the progression of the illness prevents neurological and psychological damage. Family caregivers would benefit from interventions tailored to prevent recurrence and relapse.


mental illness, impact of mental illness, stages of the mental illness, family caregivers, stress, stigma, interventions, mental health of family members, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, recurrence of mental illness, psychotic episodes, diagnosis.

Document Type




Degree Name

Counselor Education

Level of Degree


Department Name

Individual, Family, and Community Education

First Advisor

Rifenbary, Deborah

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lemberger TrueLove, Mathew

Second Committee Member

Trinidad-Galván, Ruth

Third Committee Member

Smith-Pierce, Susan