Surviving the tornado of mental illness: psychiatric survivors' experiences of getting, losing, and keeping housing.
Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.)
This qualitative study explored experiences of psychiatric consumer-survivors related to housing. Nine focus groups involving 90 people were conducted in urban and rural areas in South-Western Ontario. A set of open-ended questions was used. Many participants described a devastating experience of losing much of what was important to them and going through a long arduous process to rebuild their lives. Group discussions were audiotaped and transcribed. Individual and team analyses of the transcripts revealed that psychiatric survivors experienced three levels of upheaval, loss, and destruction, similar to the effects of a tornado: losing ground, struggling to survive, and gaining stability. Within each of these levels, five major themes were identified: living in fear, losing control of basic human rights, attempting to hold onto and create relationships, identifying supports and seeking services, and obtaining personal space and place. A caring community response, including adequate housing, income support, and community care, can help people rebuild their lives.