BACKGROUND : Family life is a near-universal condition and a fundamental human right. It can also have a significant impact on mental health, including recovery from mental health conditions. In India, families play a considerable role, representing a source of social, cultural, religious and, often, financial support. However, families can also play a stigmatising role.
AIM : To examine the experiences of mental health service users (MHSUs) relating to stigma and support provided by family members and to consider ways in which family support can be improved.
METHOD : This is a qualitative study. A total of 17 residential MHSUs at the Ahmedabad Hospital for Mental Health were interviewed. The results were evaluated using thematic content analysis.
RESULTS : The results revealed that all 17 MHSUs considered their families to be important sources of support, while 14 of the 17 MHSUs also experienced stigma emanating from their families. A total of 11 experienced lack of knowledge, 4 spoke of prejudicial attitudes and 5 mentioned discriminatory behaviours. There were important gender differences in experiences. MHSUs mentioned needs ranging from education and peer support for family members to financial support.
CONCLUSIONS : Families act both as sources of support and stigmatisation. Education needs are considerable, while the need for peer support for families and resources to aid families in supporting people with mental health conditions are also important considerations.