Family Members’ Existential and Moral Dilemmas With Coercion in Mental Healthcare

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Abstract

Coercion in mental healthcare does not only affect the patient, but also the patient’s families. Using data from interviews with 36 family members of adult and adolescent people with mental health problems and coercion experiences, the present narrative study explores family members’ existential and moral dilemmas regarding coercion and the factors influencing these dilemmas. Four major themes are identified: the ambiguity of coercion; struggling to stay connected and establishing collaboration; worries and distress regarding compulsory care; and dilemmas regarding initiating coercion. Subsequently, coercion can reduce, but also add burden for the family by creating strains on family relations, dilemmas, (moral) distress, and retrospective regrets; this is reinforced by the lack of information or involvement and low-quality care. Subsequently, it is a moral obligation to develop more responsive health services and professionals who provide more guidance and balanced information to increase the possibilities for voluntary alternatives and informed decision making.

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