Original Research

Health effects of caregiving and coping with severe mental disorders: A caregivers’ experience

Olindah Silaule, Fasloen Adams, Nokuthula G. Nkosi
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 30 | a2144 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v30i0.2144 | © 2024 Olindah Silaule, Fasloen Adams, Nokuthula G. Nkosi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 July 2023 | Published: 29 March 2024

About the author(s)

Olindah Silaule, Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Fasloen Adams, Division of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Nokuthula G. Nkosi, Department of Nursing Education, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Informal caregivers are an essential health resource in the care of persons with severe mental disorders, particularly in South Africa where access to mental healthcare services is limited.

Aim: The study aimed to explore and describe the coping strategies used by informal caregivers and the specific health impacts they face in the context of severe mental disorders in South Africa.

Setting: The study was conducted in Bushbuckridge municipality situated in the northeastern parts of Mpumalanga province, South Africa.

Methods: A descriptive qualitative methodology was used to conduct semi-structured interviews with 12 purposefully selected participants. Audio-recorded interviews were translated, transcribed and analysed inductively on NVivo12 using reflexive thematic analysis.

Results: The themes identified were caregivers’ experience of consequences of caregiving and caregivers’ experience of coping with their caregiving role. Participants experienced negative consequences on their emotional, mental and physical health. The participants use internal and external resources to cope with the challenges they face, and many highlighted using emotion-focused coping strategies.

Conclusion: The findings revealed an urgent need to develop support strategies to strengthen informal caregivers’ coping and promote good health particularly in rural South Africa where informal caregivers play a crucial role in the management of severe mental disorders.

Contribution: The finding demands that policymakers and healthcare providers prioritise the health and well-being of the informal caregivers. There should be policies targeted specifically at developing and implementing caregiver-orientated healthcare services.


informal caregiver; informal carer; caregiving; positive coping mechanisms; negative coping mechanisms; caregiver health; caregiver well-being; mental disorder; severe mental disorder.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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