Research Article| Volume 12, ISSUE 4, P195-201, August 1998

Being mentally III: A phenomenological inquiry

  • Mary E. Johnson
    Address reprint requests to Mary E. Johnson, Ph.D., RN, Rush University College of Nursing, Armour Academic Center, 1042D, 600 S. Paulina, Chicago, IL 60612.
    Rush University College of Nursing, Armour Academic Center, Chicago, IL, USA
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      There have been few studies that have attempted to understand the world of one who is mentally ill. This interpretive phenomenological study, which began as a study of the meaning of being restrained, became a glimpse into mental illness. For this study, 10 psychiatric patients were questioned in unstructured interviews. The taped interviews were transcribed, and the resulting texts were analyzed with use of a modification of an eight-stage process. Heideggerian hermeneutical phenomenology provided the philosophical framework for this study. Two major themes—struggling and “why me?”—revealed what it is like for the participants to live with a serious mental illness. These participants struggled with the staff on the unit, with being restrained, and with the symptoms of their illness. As part of their struggling, they asked, “Why me?”—a question that could be interpreted existentially as, why are things the way they are and not some other way? Finally, this study underscores how important it is for the nurse caring for a psychiatric patient to enter into, and try to understand, the world of patients with mental illnesses.
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