How Do Carers View Their Relationship With Forensic Mental Health Services?

Laura Robinson, Donna Haskayne*, Michael Larkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research into carers’ experience of, and engagement with, forensic mental health services is limited. Given the complexity of issues within a forensic population, it is important to understand the needs of this group of carers. The purpose of this paper is to gain greater insight into the experience of carers and their relationship with forensic mental health services. Six participants with relatives being treated in a forensic mental health service were interviewed. The interview schedule explored their experiences of being a relative of someone receiving treatment within the service and their relationship with the service from initial contact to present-day involvement. The data were analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The analysis resulted in five overarching themes: The “parental” role of the service incorporates both their peace of mind about their loved one being in the service, but also the tension between being deferential and viewing the service as over-restrictive at times. “Life is on hold” reflected stressors associated with the admission, and its impact on their lives. “Progress versus stagnation” encompassed perceptions of recovery and differing levels of hope and frustration. “Not hiding away” reflected potential harm caused by stigma and the importance of connecting with others. The theme of “uncertainty about the future” related to participants’ feelings about their loved one approaching discharge from the service. These themes were explored in relation to attachment research, including developing a secure base and containment, and the important balance between service user dependence and autonomy. The role of carers in the forensic mental health service is complex with competing demands. These results are a step toward understanding the views of this carer group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-248
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Forensic Psychology Research and Practice
Issue number4
Early online date14 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Carers
  • families
  • forensic mental health
  • men
  • subjective experience


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