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Open Access Research article

How do patients with severe mental diagnosis cope in everyday life - a qualitative study comparing patients’ experiences of self-referral inpatient treatment with treatment as usual?

Marit B Rise1*, Gretha H Evensen2, Inger Elise O Moljord3, Marit Rø3, Dagfinn Bjørgen4 and Lasse Eriksen35

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health and General Practice, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

2 Norwegian Resource Center for Community Mental Health, Trondheim, Norway

3 Nidaros Community Mental Health Centre, St. Olav’s University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway

4 Resource Centre for Service User Experience and Service Development, Trondheim, Norway

5 Department of Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:347  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-347

Published: 15 August 2014



Several hospitals in Norway provide short self-referral inpatient treatment to patients with severe mental diagnosis. No studies have compared the experiences of patients who have had the opportunity to self-refer to inpatient treatment with patients who have received treatment as usual. This qualitative study was nested within a randomised controlled trial investigating the effect of self-referral to inpatient treatment. The aim was to explore how patients with severe mental diagnosis coped four months after signing a contract for self-referral, as compared to patients receiving treatment as usual.


Data was collected using qualitative individual interviews with patients with severe mental diagnosis, conducted four months after being randomised either to a contract for self-referral (intervention group) or to treatment as usual (control group).


Twenty-five patients participated in interviews - 11 from the intervention group and 14 from the control group. Results four months after randomisation showed that patients with a contract for self-referral appeared to have more confidence in strategies to cope with mental illness and to apply more active cognitive strategies. Patients with a contract also expressed less resignation, hopelessness and powerlessness than patients without a contract. In addition, patients with a contract seemed to be closer to the ideal of living a "normal" life and being a "normal" person.


The results indicate that the patients who had a contract for self-referral had come further in the recovery process and should possibly be better off during treatment.

Mental health services; Self-referral; Mental illness; Psychiatry; Psychosis; Bipolar disorder