Background: Persons with psychiatric disabilities describe health in similar ways to others, although the prevalence of ill-health and risk factors are larger than in the general population.
Aim: To describe the experience of health and body in order to enable the creation of health interventions for this group of users.
Design: The first author interviewed five women and six men with psychiatric disabilities, aged 26 to 53, participating in a life style programme.
Method: The transcribed interviews were analysed by qualitative description.
Result: The categories “Health is having a life as others have” disclosed losses of important life domains and experiences of being different, and “Health is absence of psychological and physical problems” describes their symptoms and its hampering effects on quality of life and self-esteem. The category “Health is being able to influence one’s own health” reveals a sense of hope that health is manageable.
Conclusion: Not having a life or being as others causes a sense of being different and stigmatization, which might affect self esteem, quality of life and possibilities for recovery. Health is to be spared physical and psychological problems as the lack of energy which affects motivation and the ability to gain a quality of life. But health is also described in terms of a conviction that it can be affected through knowledge and self-management of symptoms.
Clinical implications: Health intervention programmes should be designed in such a way that promotes motivation and self-management as it is an important factor in recovery. Carers should also promote and support clients to find activities, relationships and sites where symptom relief can be experienced.
Psychiatric disability, health, qualitative description, health education, health