Knowing Care. An Exploration of Secondary Trauma Involving Caregivers of People with Mental Illness

Author: Cindy Eggington

Eggington, Cindy, 2017 Knowing Care. An Exploration of Secondary Trauma Involving Caregivers of People with Mental Illness, Flinders University, School of Health Sciences

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The current literature describes the enduring impact of burden associated with the mental health caregiving role. This PhD study reviewed the historical, cultural and social contexts of care that have led to current discourses about psychological trauma. It explored how deinstitutionalisation has increased perceptions of social inequality concerning the treatment of mental illness and caregivers’ new responsibility as community role models and mental health advocates.

Harry Stack Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory was used to examine secondary trauma involving a sample of South Australian mental health caregivers. Four stages of data collection gradually explored their diverse social and cultural caregiving experiences.

This PhD study contributes to a more rigorous conceptualisation of the indicators of vicarious stress based on interpersonal development. It provides practical applications and effective strategies to enable both caregivers and services to address and limit the impact of secondary trauma upon caregivers in the future.

Keywords: Secondary trauma, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Harry Stack Sullivan, Interpersonal Theory, psychiatry, mental health services, mental illness, action research, caregivers, carers, deinstitutionalisation, stigma, recovery

Subject: Health Sciences thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Health Sciences
Supervisor: Sharon Lawn