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A survey on issues in the lives of women with severe mental illness
Psychiatric Services 1997; doi:
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Women with severe mental illness were surveyed to explore issues in living with mental illness, personal relationships, and professional relationships and health care. The topics were drawn from the literature on the psychology of women and from separate focus groups of therapists and mental health care consumers. The women's survey responses were compared with men's responses to an equivalent survey to determine if the issues affected women and men similarly. METHODS: A 76-item questionnaire was completed by 107 women and 59 men from ten rehabilitation centers in Maryland. RESULTS: A larger proportion of women than men cited personal relationships as their most important formative experiences, with only 32 percent of women citing severe mental illness or related issues as formative experiences. Despite acknowledging the negative impact of several mental illness on their lives, most respondents reported normal concerns rather than illness-related ones, and most were relatively satisfied with their lives. Respondents made sense of their problems in diverse ways, although most knew their diagnosis. Women reported both more and better quality personal relationships than men. However, women were more likely than men to report a history of sexual abuse. Women reported generally good relationships with providers. About one-quarter to one- third of women reported not receiving proper care for birth control and menopause and not receiving pelvic or breast examinations. CONCLUSIONS: The survey results suggested that personal relationships are central in women's lives, that women with severe mental illness do not see their mental illness as the main feature of their identities, and that women's experience of living with severe mental illness is considerably different from that of men.

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