Psychiatry - Theses

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    Chinese-Australian families' help-seeking behaviours for mental illness
    Hsiao, Fei-Hsiu ( 2002)
    This thesis includes two studies: a survey of Melbourne's Chinese community and a family interview study. The survey was based on 418 respondents while twenty-eight caregivers participated in the family interview study. The survey explores how depression and schizophrenia are understood and are dealt with in a migrant Chinese community. The purpose of the family interview study was to examine the pathways to care for mental disorders, the social representation of illness and families' experiences of illness. Social knowledge about mental illness, physical illness and the concepts of normal human experiences of distress influenced the labelling of experienced conditions. Disorders were labelled as ‘a mental illness’, ‘a physical illness’, ‘a normal problem’ or ‘an abnormal problem’. Results indicated that schizophrenia was likely to be labelled as a mental illness and psychiatrists were seen as the main form of help. On the other hand, depressive disorder, anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder were likely to be labelled as a ‘normal problem’, an ‘abnormal problem’ or a ‘physical illness’ and were likely to be treated by family members, friends, a traditional Chinese medicine physician or a Western physician. Labels given determined initial responses to the problem but the work also indicates a dynamic relabelling process developed by exposure to the social and professional systems. Pathways to care are intimately related to illness understandings which in themselves are in some respects relatively dynamic. The present study suggests that health professionals and the health institutions need to take into account patients' and family members’ explanations of illness in order to improve access to their services and in order to improve the quality of the services they deliver to the community.