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Experiences and explanations of mental ill health in a group of devout Christians from the ethnic majority population in secular Sweden: a qualitative study
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine. Department of Theology, Psychology of Religion and Cultural Psychology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden; Mental Health Division, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Hamar, Norway.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Professionell Development.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Family Medicine.
2016 (English)In: BMJ Open, ISSN 2044-6055, E-ISSN 2044-6055, Vol. 6, no 10, e011647Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

OBJECTIVE: To explore existential meaning-making in an ethnic-majority subgroup with mental ill health and to increase knowledge about the importance of gaining access to such information in mental healthcare.

DESIGN: Qualitative study using in-depth interviews and systematic text condensation analysis.

PARTICIPANTS: 17 devote Christians with an ethnic-Swedish background, 12 women and 5 men, 30-73 years old, from different congregations across Sweden, having sought medical care for mental ill health of any kind.

SETTING: The secular Swedish society.

RESULTS: A living, although asymmetric, relationship with God often was seen as the most important relationship, giving hope and support when ill, but creating feelings of abandonment and fear if perceived as threatened. Symptoms were interpreted through an existential framework influenced by their view of God. A perceived judging God increased feelings of guilt, sinfulness and shame. A perceived merciful God soothed symptoms and promoted recovery. Existential consequences, such as being unable to pray or participate in congregational rituals, caused feelings of 'spiritual homelessness'. Participants gave biopsychosocial explanations of their mental ill health, consonant with and sometimes painfully conflicting with existential explanations, such as being attacked by demons. Three different patterns of interaction among biopsychosocial and existential dimensions in their explanatory systems of illness causation were identified: (a) comprehensive thinking and consensus; (b) division and parallel functions and (c) division and competitive functions.

CONCLUSIONS: Prevailing medical models for understanding mental ill health do not include the individual's existential experiences, which are important for identifying risk and protective factors as well as possible resources for recovery. The various expressions of existential meaning-making identified in this devout religious subgroup illustrate that existential information cannot be generalised, even within a small, seemingly homogenous group. The three identified patterns of interactions formed a typology that may be of use in clinical settings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 6, no 10, e011647
National Category
Family Medicine
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-129024DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011647ISI: 000391303200091PubMedID: 27797991OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-129024DiVA: diva2:1058334
Available from: 2016-12-20 Created: 2016-12-20 Last updated: 2017-04-20Bibliographically approved

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Lilja, AinaDeMarinis, ValerieLehti, ArjaForssén, Annika
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CiteExportLink to record
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