Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Health Services Research and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The importance of relationships in mental health care: A qualitative study of service users' experiences of psychiatric hospital admission in the UK

Helen Gilburt*, Diana Rose and Mike Slade

Author Affiliations

Health Service and Population Research Department, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, SE5 8AF, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Health Services Research 2008, 8:92  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-92

Published: 25 April 2008

Abstract

Background

While a number of studies have looked at life on service users' experiences of life on psychiatric wards, no research exists that have approached these experiences from the user perspective since the introduction of community care.

Methods

This user-led study uses a participatory approach to develop an understanding of the processes and themes which define the user experience of hospitalisation. Nineteen service users who had all had inpatient stays in psychiatric hospitals in London were interviewed in the community.

Results

Relationships formed the core of service users' experiences. Three further codes, treatment, freedom and environment defined the role of hospital and its physical aspects. Themes of communication, safety, trust, coercion, and cultural competency contributed to the concept of relationships.

Conclusion

Relationships with an individual which comprised effective communication, cultural sensitivity, and the absence of coercion resulted in that person being attributed with a sense of trust. This resulted in the patient experiencing the hospital as a place of safety in terms of risk from other patients and staff. Barriers to positive relationships included ineffective and negative communication, a lack of trust, a lack of safety in terms of staff as ineffective in preventing violence, and as perpetrators themselves, and the use of coercion by staff. This unique perspective both acts as a source of triangulation with previous studies and highlights the importance of the therapeutic relationship in providing a safe and therapeutic milieu for the treatment of people with acute mental health problems.