The effects of mental health nurses’ own experience of mental illness or being a carer have rarely been researched beyond the workplace setting. This study aimed to explore how the experience of mental illness affects mental health nurses’ lives outside of and inside work. A sample of 26 mental health nurses with personal experience of mental illness took part in semistructured interviews. Data were analysed thematically using a six-phase approach. The analysis revealed the broad context of nurses’ experiences of mental illness according to three interwoven themes: mental illness as part of family life; experience of accessing services; and life interwoven with mental illness. Participants typically described personal and familial experience of mental illness across their life course, with multiple causes and consequences. The findings suggest that nurses’ lives outside of work should be taken into account when considering the impact of their personal experience of mental illness. Similarly being a nurse influences how mental illness is experienced. Treatment of nurses with mental illness should account for their nursing expertise whilst recognizing that the context for nurses’ mental illness could be much broader than the effect of workplace stress.
- lived experience
- mental health nursing