The Impact of Persons with Mental Health Problems on Family Members and their Coping Strategies in Afghanistan

Afghans are suffering from mental health problems because of 40 years of war and its consequences, and their distress is exacerbated by the lack of professional mental health services. This study is one of few to shed light on this challenging situation. It explores the experiences of families who have a family member with mental health problems and its effects on their wellbeing and coping strategies. Using qualitative methods, the research questions guided the sampling of the informants (purposive sampling), the data collection method (semi-structured interviewing) and data analysis (comparative analysis). After 60 interviews, the study achieved saturation. Findings show that living with a person with mental health problems impacted caregivers’ wellbeing. In particular, living with a family member with a mental illness impacted caregivers’ behaviour and practical life and caused severe stigma for the family. Caregivers tried in a variety of ways to cope with the situation. Due to the high level of distress experienced by caregivers, they need equal, though different, caring attention to their ill family members. Because of a lack of awareness related to mental illness, families feel helpless when it comes to effective coping. There is therefore a great need to pay attention to people with mental health problems and their caregivers. 


Key implications for practice

• There is a need for mass awareness regarding mental health issues in Afghanistan. 

• The country must train a sufficient number of skilled psychologists, counsellors, psychiatrists, and social workers and provide free professional psychosocial counselling services for persons with mental health problems and particularly for their families.

• The Afghan health system would benefit from involving local mullahs, teachers, elders and community leaders in providing basic mental health literacy.

Spozhmay Oriya & Tayeba Alekozai | 2022
In: Interventions : Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas : ISSN: 1571-8883 | 20 | 1 | May | 28-35
Afghans, Caregivers, Coping Behavior, Family Members, Mental health, Mental Illness, Quality of Life, Religiosity, Research