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ISSN: (Online) 2223-6279, (Print) 0379-8577

Page 1 of 7 Original Research

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Nok’khanya F. Hadebe1
Tendani S. Ramukumba1

1Adelaide Tambo School of
Nursing Science, Faculty of
Science, Tshwane University
of Technology, Pretoria,
South Africa

Corresponding author:
Nok’khanya Hadebe,
[email protected]

Received: 05 June 2019
Accepted: 28 Oct. 2020
Published: 18 Dec. 2020

How to cite this article:
Hadebe, N.F. &
Ramukumba, T.S., 2020,
‘Resilience and social support
of young adults living with
mental illness in the city of
Tshwane, Gauteng
province, South Africa’,
Curationis 43(1), a2084.

© 2020. The Authors.
Licensee: AOSIS. This work
is licensed under the
Creative Commons
Attribution License.

Introduction and background
Mental illnesses rank third in their contribution to the burden of disease in South Africa, and
in 2012, approximately one in six South Africans experienced a common mental illness such as
depression, anxiety or substance use illness (Lund et al. 2012:402). Globally, 264 million
people suffer from depression, 50 million suffer from dementia, 45 million suffer from bipolar
and 20 million suffer from schizophrenia and psychosis (World Health Organization [WHO]
2019). Mental illnesses are characterised by a clinically significant disturbance in cognition,
emotion regulation or behaviour that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological or
developmental processes underlying mental functioning (Aftab 2016:11). Mental health, on
the contrary, is a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own
potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and
is able to contribute to her or his community (WHO 2014).

Mental illnesses are often accompanied by discrimination. Young adults who already
experience prejudice and discrimination, in particular, suffer doubly when faced with the
burdens of mental illnesses (Collins et al. 2012:2). They face demands, expectations and
challenges that carry larger risks than those experienced by their peers some generations
ago (Rowling 2006:101). Poor mental health is related to other health and development
concerns in young people, such as lower educational achievements, substance abuse, violence,
and poor reproductive and sexual health (Sharan & Sagar 2007). Although they are often
first detected later in life, several mental illnesses have their onset at ages 14–35 years
(WHO 2001). This is the population with the highest prevalence of mental health illnesses,
particularly those young adults aged between 18 and 24 years (Rowling 2006:101).

The negative experiences of this group create vulnerabilities and exert certain constraints
in access to resources, triggering mental illnesses (Rowling 2006:101), which are usually

Background: Young adults living with mental illnesses often experience a flood of
powerful negative emotions, including anger, anxiety and depression. Some of these
young adults remain trapped in their negative emotions long after the stressful events
that caused them have passed, whilst resilient young adults without mental illness are
able to quickly bounce back to their normal emotional state.

Objectives: The objective of the study was to explore the social supports of young adults
living with mental illness in the city of Tshwane.

Methods: This was a qualitative explorative study conducted in the city of Tshwane in 2018
amongst young adults living with mental illness, using a semi-structured interview schedule.

Results: Those young adults living with mental illness who had support from family and friends
were able to cope with stressful challenges and had a better outlook for the future, whilst those
who perceived their relationship with friends and family as not supportive reported low self-
esteem and difficulties dealing with challenging and stressful situations in their lives.

Conclusion: Resilience was seen in those young people living with mental illness with support
from family and friends, who had positive future prospects, those with high self-esteem and
those who were able to adapt to changing situations beyond their control.

Keywords: resilience; social support; young adults; mental illness; family support; supportive

Resilience and social support of young adults living
with mental illness in the city of Tshwane,

Gauteng province, South Africa

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associated with significant distress in social, occupational
or other important activities (Maisel 2013:1). These negative
experiences not only affect their mental health but also limit
their capacity to acquire the skills to feel confident in
interpersonal interactions and resilience in case of life
stresses (Rowling 2006:102). Some of the most important
determinants of mental illnesses include lack of social
support and social protection (WHO 2019).

Resilience is the ability of an individual to function
completely in the face of adversity or stress, and it is
considered one of the dimensions of positive mental
health (Murphey, Barry, & Vaughn 2013:1). Resilience is a
combination of personal characteristics and some learned
skills (International Council of Nurses 2016:31). This
concept generally refers to the capacity of people who are
faced with adversity to adapt, cope, rebound, withstand,
grow, survive and define a new sense of self through
situations of adversity, including mental illness
(Deegan 2005:1). Young adults who are resilient are
likely to enter adulthood with a good chance of coping
well when experiencing difficult circumstances in life
(Murphey et al. 2013:1). Young adults with mental illnesses
often experience a flood of powerful negative emotions,
such as anger, anxiety and depression. Some remain
trapped in these negative emotions long after the stressful
events that caused them have passed, whilst emotionally
resilient young adults have the ability to bounce back to
their normal emotional state (Mills & Dombeck 2005).

The demands, expectations, challenges, experiences and
circumstances faced by young adults not only affect
their mental health but also limit their capacity to acquire
the skills to feel confident in interpersonal interactions
and resilience in case of challenges (Rowling 2006:102).
These experiences continue to put them at risk of
social exclusion and discrimination in all facets of life
(Murphey et al. 2013:4). Furthermore, the status quo
leads to young adults living with mental illnesses being
unable to exhibit resilience. Supporting individuals as
they develop their own resilience is of significant benefit
to individuals, families and organisations (International
Council of Nurses 2016:31).

Previous research has indicated associations between
social support and resilience in mental health through
several psychological and behavioural mechanisms
such as the motivation to adopt a healthy lifestyle, high
self-esteem and the use of active coping strategies, amongst
others (Southwick et al. 2016:78). Therefore, this article
reports on the social support of young adults living with
mental illnesses.

Objective of the study
The objective of the study was to explore the social support
of young adults living with mental illnesses in the city of
Tshwane, Gauteng Province, South Africa.

Research methods and design
Research design
A qualitative exploratory research approach was followed
in this study. The purpose of qualitative research is to
explore a phenomenon from the participant’s point of
view (De Vos et al. 2012:64), whilst exploratory studies are
conducted to gain insight into a situation, phenomenon,
community or individual (De Vos et al. 2012:95). A
qualitative research approach is applicable to researchers
who need to examine the quality of human behaviour,
making sense of and interpreting the meanings that
participants attach to their experiences (Austin & Sutton
2014:436). The design of the study enabled the researcher
to explore the resilience of young adults living with mental
illnesses, as well as their ability to establish social
networking and seek social support.

Study setting
The study was conducted in a low-resource area located
on the peripheries of the city of Tshwane in what was
formerly called ‘townships’. Low-resource settings are
characterised by limited finances to cover healthcare costs
on an individual or societal basis, leading to limited access
to medication, equipment, supplies and devices and less
developed infrastructure, including transportation
(Washington University 2014). The ‘city of Tshwane’ refers to
the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality in Pretoria,
Gauteng province. Pretoria is the administrative capital city
of the Republic of South Africa (South African Government
2020). In this city, mental healthcare services are provided
through a provincial hospital on the south-western side of
the city and two other private hospitals, as well as through
provincial clinics, City of Tshwane Municipality clinics, and
public and private rehabilitation centres.

Study population and sampling
The researcher approached five clinics offering mental
healthcare services in the city of Tshwane; however, only two
were willing to assist. With assistance from the mental
healthcare nurses, the researcher identified those individuals
who fit the inclusion criteria and were willing and able to
give consent and participate in the study. These included
young adults aged between 18 and 34 years living with
mental illnesses, residing and utilising the mental health
clinics in the city of Tshwane. Purposive sampling was used
to recruit 21 participants between March and June 2018.
However, four participants withdrew from the study without
giving a reason.

Young adults living with schizophrenia, mood disorders,
anxiety and depression who were stable on treatment were
included, whilst young adults with substance abuse,
intellectual disability and those who were not in touch with
reality and were unable to give informed consent were
excluded from the study. Data collection ceased after the
10th participant, when no new codes were generated,

Page 3 of 7 Original Research Open Access

suggesting that the researcher had reached data saturation
(Majid et al. 2018:67). According to Creswell (2014), data
saturation is reached when no new information is discovered
in the data during the data analysis or there is enough
information to replicate the study. This is when the ability to
obtain additional new information has ended and when
further coding is no longer feasible.

Data collection
Data gathering was done through self-report using face-to-face
semi-structured interviews. An interview guide was used
to guide the interview. An interview guide was designed
with the help of experts and was pretested with the first
two interviews to ensure that the questions elicited
appropriate responses and confirmed the reliability of the
data collection instrument. The interviews were carried out
in English, which was a preferred language of communication
for all participants. The Robertson Cooper model of resilience
guided the questions and probing during the interviews
(International Council of Nurses 2016:30). Face-to-face
interviews allowed the researcher to collect data on
individuals to explore sensitive issues of relationships and
support that involved personal histories, as well as the
individuals’ perspectives on resilience; this was useful
particularly because the researcher was aware of exploring a
sensitive topic (Family Health International 2005:2). Other
advantages of using interviews in this study included that
the researcher was able to clarify questions where there were
misunderstandings, the researcher was able to observe some
non-verbal behaviours and mannerisms, and the researcher
was able to obtain in-depth responses (Brink, Van der Walt &
Van Rensburg 2018:153). Questions related to the participants’
sense of confidence, social support and ability to establish
social networks, purposefulness and adaptability were
included in the interview guide, with additional probes
posed to the participants. The interviews were recorded
using an audio-recording device, and reflective notes were
taken during the interviews.

To ensure rigour, the researcher used Lincoln and Guba’s
criteria of credibility, dependability, confirmability and
transferability (Lincoln & Guba 1986). According to Forero
et al. (2018:3), the purpose of dependability is to ‘establish
confidence that the results are true, credible and believable’.
To ensure credibility, the researcher spent more than
12 weeks with the setting and participants, and to pretest
the interview guide, interviews were conducted with two
participants. The researcher further developed a detailed
draft of the study protocol and a detailed track record of the
data collection process, and an independent coder was also
used to code the data and then compare and discuss the
codes with the researcher in order to ensure dependability
(Forero et al. 2018:3). A reflexive journal was also kept,
ensuring that the results would be confirmed by other
researchers (Forero et al. 2018:3). Transferability was
ensured by purposefully selecting participants who fit the

criteria for inclusion in the study and ensuring that data
were collected until saturation was reached.

Data collection procedure
The researcher visited two clinics that had already indicated
their availability for the research to proceed. Potential
participants were identified from those clinics during
the days that they had an appointment with the doctor. The
purpose of the study and the procedure involved in
the participation were explained by the researcher to the
potential participants. Those who were willing to participate
were given an information leaflet to further familiarise
themselves with the research objectives and procedure
before written consent was obtained. After informed
consent had been obtained, the research participants were
interviewed on the clinic premises in a separate private
room after their appointments with the doctors. Each
interview lasted for 30–45 min. Only one interview was
conducted per session as the researcher did not want to
disrupt the treatment flow. The interviews were later
transcribed verbatim to begin the data analysis. Data were
collected until saturation was reached.

Data analysis
The data were transcribed verbatim from audiotapes to
paper. Using Tesch’s approach to content analysis, the
verbatim transcriptions were analysed until data saturation
was reached. Tesch’s approach involves categorising
verbatim transcriptions into themes for analysis (Creswell &
Creswell 2018:192). The transcriptions were carefully read,
making notes of ideas that emerged from the data whilst
arranging similar topics into groups. The researcher then
abbreviated the topics as codes and wrote the codes next to
the appropriate segments of text, using the most descriptive
wording for the topics and then grouping together topics that
were related to each other. The data material belonging to
each category was put together in one place, and a preliminary
analysis was performed. The organisation of data was
observed to check whether new categories or codes emerged.
Recoding of the data was done where necessary.

Ethical considerations
The ethical standards for nurse researchers and fundamental
research principles serve as a framework for nurses
conducting and participating in research; therefore, the
research was based on the ethical standards for nurse
researchers (Brink et al. 2018:34).

Approval from the relevant research committee
The Departmental Research and Innovation Committee,
Faculty Higher Degree Committee, Faculty Research Ethics
Committee of the Tshwane University of Technology (FCRE
2017/10/08 [SCI] [2]), and the Tshwane Research Committee
(GP_201711_015) approved the study and granted permission
to the researcher to carry it out in the community.

Page 4 of 7 Original Research Open Access

The right to self-determination
Informed consent was obtained from each participant before
data collection could commence. Transparency was upheld
in terms of the objectives of the research, the type of data to
be collected, the method of data collection and the benefits
of the research. The potential respondents were approached
by the researcher on the day of follow-up at the clinic, where
they were invited to take part in the study after a thorough
explanation and an information leaflet had been provided.

Principle of beneficence
The researcher ensured the well-being of all participants,
who have a right to protection from discomfort and harm –
be it physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, economic,
social or legal.

Principle of justice
The researcher treated all participants fairly and equally
during the study. The researcher ensured that there was no
victimisation or loss of benefits for those participants who
refused to participate in the study or those who withdrew
their participation from the study.

Confidentiality and anonymity
The researcher ensured confidentiality and anonymity
through the protection of participants’ identities. The
researcher ensured the privacy, worth and dignity of the
participants during the study by conducting the interviews
with participants in a private area with minimal disturbances.
The researcher used fictitious names when reporting to
ensure that no link could be made between the individual
identities of the participants and the research reports and
publications generated from the results.

Demographic information
Table 1 presents the demographic information of all
participants, including their age, gender, nature of illness,
highest educational level achieved, employment status and
relationship status. The participants were aged between
19 and 34 years. Seven participants were male, and the
three others were female. In terms of the highest educational

level achieved, two participants had diplomas and four
participants had completed grade 12. None of the participants
were married, but four were in relationships. The participants
included in the study were living with mental illness such as
anxiety disorder, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and
epilepsy. Although epilepsy is not classified as a mental
illness in the literature, people living with epilepsy may
experience changes in personality, display extreme emotional
changes or exhibit behaviours that are not considered socially
acceptable, leading to them being mental healthcare users
(Sadock, Sadock & Ruiz 2015:723).

Social support
During the data analysis, multiple themes emerged,
including social support, adaptability, purposefulness and
confidence. However, for the purpose of this article, only one
theme (i.e. social support) and the three categories that
emerged under it are discussed (see Table 2).

The theme of social support emerged during analysis of
the responses to a question that aimed to explore the
participants’ ability to seek and secure social support
from effective networks and build good relationships to
help them overcome adverse situations. Questions relating
to the participants’ relationships with their families and
friends were posed. The participants reflected on their
relationships with their families and friends, and some
even reflected on their relationships with colleagues.
Categories that emerged from the theme were poor
relationship with family, good relationship with family and
good relationship with friends.

Poor relationship with family
Under the category of poor relationship with family, the
participants reported a lack of support, loneliness and

TABLE 1: Demographic information.

Name Gender Age Illness Education Employment Relationship status

1 Mahlatse Male 31 Depression Grade 10 Unemployed Single
2 Lehlogonolo Male 19 Anxiety Grade 11 Scholar Single
3 Tsietsi Female 34 Schizophrenia Diploma Unemployed Single
4 Paulus Male 34 Schizophrenia Grade 12 Unemployed Relationship
5 Dorah Female 29 Epilepsy Grade 10 Self-employed Single
6 Beauty Female 28 Depression, bipolar Grade 12 Employed Relationship
7 David Male 29 Schizophrenia Diploma Part-time Relationship
8 Lebogang Male 23 Depression Grade 12 Scholar Single
9 Jeffrey Male 32 Schizophrenia Grade 12 Unemployed Single
10 Thabo Male 27 Schizophrenia Grade 11 Unemployed Relationship

TABLE 2: Social support.
Theme Category Subcategory

Social support Poor relationship with family Lack of support

Good relationship with family Supportive relationship
Family involvement
Financial support
Therapeutic relationship

Good relationships with friends Spending time together
Understanding and empathy
Tolerance and compassion

Page 5 of 7 Original Research Open Access

alienation from family members. One participant reported a
lack of support that led to feelings of loneliness. It appears
that those participants who had poor relationships with
their families also lacked support from them. The narratives
to support this subcategory are as follows:

‘Like, when I do something useful or looking for their [family]
help when I have problems … maybe in a relationship or anything
like that, you see? There is no one that stands by me; I feel like
I am alone in this world, which is true, you see?’ (Mahlatse,
31 years old, depression)

‘I am on my own, I do everything by myself. No one at home
helps me.’ (Dorah, 29 years old, epilepsy)

Good relationship with family
Some participants reported that they had good relationships
with their families. Participants mentioned supportive
relationships, involvement in their treatment, financial
support and therapeutic relationships with their families.
Narratives to support this category are as follows:

‘They are supportive … sometimes my sister comes with me to
the clinic, for follow-up and check-ups.’ (Paulus, 34 years old,

‘My sister used to take me to the doctor’s appointment, and she
would sometimes fetch my treatment.’ (Beauty, 28 years old,
bipolar and depression)

‘Well, it’s amazing, and I’m grateful to have them in my life.
They are very supportive and help me with my studies.’
(Lebogang, 23 years old, depression)

‘It is okay; if I want something, they give me money; they are
supportive.’ (Tsietsi, 34 years old, schizophrenia)

Good relationship with friends
Participants reported that they spent most of their time
with their friends, and some described their relationship
with friends as understanding and empathetic, whilst
other friends were seen as tolerant and compassionate.
Narratives to support this category are as follows:

‘We are very close; it’s people I actually grew up with. So,
we understand each other very well.’ (Lebogang, 23 years old,

‘They are there for me when I need people to spend time with.’
(Lehlogonolo, 19 years old, anxiety)

‘They are supportive; even when I’m sick, they come to visit me.
They pray with me, and they have good words that encourage
me.’ (Tsietsi, 34 years old, schizophrenia)

‘They treat me with respect; they do not isolate me.’ (Paulus,
34 years old, schizophrenia)

The participants described their relationships with friends as
good; they also mentioned that their friends were
encouraging, did not isolate them and spent time with them.

Half of the participants in this study were unemployed.
There has also been a general increase in the unemployment
rates in South Africa (StatsSA 2019). Unemployment has
been associated with poor general health and some poor

health behaviours, such as smoking, cannabis use and
harmful drinking habits (Carlin et al. 2011:21). Furthermore,
unemployed people are twice as likely to experience
anxiety and depression, more than twice as likely to
engage in harmful consumption of alcohol and smoking,
and five times as likely to use cannabis (Carlin et al. 2011:7).
The longer unemployment goes on, the more social networks
are lost (Carlin et al. 2011:21), with a loss of an important
tenet of resilience (Blunt 2016). Unemployment is also
associated with experiences such as stigma, anger
and frustration, and loss of social roles Guintoli et al. 2011:2).

In a cross-sectional study examining the association and
interaction between education and physical and mental
health with unemployment in early, mid, and late work life,
Van Zon et al. (2017) found that low educational achievement
and poor physical and mental health exacerbate each
other’s impact on unemployment. The study concluded that
addressing unemployment may account for the physical and
mental health status of adults during some phases of their
lives (Van Zon et al. 2017). Although age is also a significant
predictor of resilience, especially in emotional regulation in
the general population (Gooding et al. 2012:268), in this study
age did not have any significance. Thus, social support is a
more important predictor of resilience than age.

Studies were conducted on the interaction between
low educational achievement with health outcomes,
health-seeking behaviours, health disparities and unhealthy
behaviours. However, there are no previous studies that
examined any form of relationship between educational
achievement and resilience in young adults living with
mental illness. In contrast, other studies concluded that low
educational achievement and poor physical and mental
health exacerbate each other’s impact on unemployment
(Van Zon et al. 2017). This study found that the common
traits amongst those participants with resilience were
good social bonds with family and friends and a higher
educational achievement compared to the others. These
participants reported good relationships with their families
and friends. The two participants who were not resilient, on
the contrary, had some similarities, such as lower educational
achievement compared with the rest of the participants and
poor relationships with their families. Van Zon et al. (2017)
showed that low education and mental illness were
associated with unemployment, whilst unemployment was
associated with a loss of social networks (Carlin et al. 2011:21),
poor health and harmful health behaviours.

Social support is about building good relationships with
others and seeking support when needed (International
Council of Nurses 2016:31). When it comes to resilience,
having this network allows people to overcome difficult
situations rather than trying to cope on their own (Blunt 2016).
Robertson Cooper identified five types of social support
(Blunt 2016): emotional – reassurance and support; esteem –
showing encouragement; network – a feeling of
social connection; tangible – assisting with material help;
and informational – providing facts and advice. The importance

Page 6 of 7 Original Research Open Access

of the support provided by family, friends or networks, based
upon shared cultural, economic or recreational interests, is
strongly emphasised by Buikstra et al. (2010) as a foundation of
both community and individual resilience. A supportive social
network helps individuals to cope during hard times, and
positive and caring individuals strengthen their networks
(Buikstra et al. 2010).

Social support is important for maintaining physical and
psychological health, and the harmful consequences of
poor social support in mental illness are well documented
(Ozbay et al. 2007:35). Southwick, Vythilingam and Charney
(2005:256) also support this by stating that social support is
essential for individuals to maintain good physical and
mental health. Lack of support from family, a sense of
alienation and loneliness meant that participants experienced
challenges in securing social support and establishing
social networks, which are essential constituents of resilience
(Blunt 2016). Research has also indicated that threats to social
connectedness, such as rejection and loneliness, trigger
neurobiological systems associated with mental instability
(Southwick et al. 2016:78). Those resilient participants also
reflected tolerance, compassion, understanding and empathy
from their friends and families.

Good social support has been identified as having a positive
impact on moderating and enhancing resilience to stress in
patients with mental illnesses (Ozbay et al. 2007:35). Those
participants who reported that they had good relationships
with their families and friends expressed support, family
involvement in their treatment regimens and financial
support. Tlhowe, Du Plessis and Koen (2017:33), in their
study about the power of families to limit relapse in mentally
ill family members, note family involvement in the daily
activities of patients with mental illnesses as a strength that
contributes to limiting relapses.

Loneliness and alienation were identified as traits that
indicated the participants’ lack of resilience in this study.
Loneliness or isolation may be experienced because of an
individual’s departure from society or exclusion from the
community, whilst alienation is seen as an interpersonal
phenomenon resulting from the lack of social acceptance
towards mental illness (Erdner et al. 2005). An alienated
person does not have any sense of belonging and love and
remains isolated and estranged (Anju 2015). This condition
emerges as a result of a lack of capacity to fit into the social
structure, unfulfilled expectations and poor mental health.
Therefore, people living with mental illnesses who lack social
support are likely to find it difficult to become resilient.

Strengths and limitations
In the beginning of the study, the researcher identified five
clinics that offered mental healthcare services where data
could be collected; however, because of a lack of interest and
lack of clear protocol in terms of obtaining ethical clearance
to conduct research in these facilities, the researcher ended

up with only two clinics where data could be collected.
The findings emanating from this study may also not be
generalised to other contexts.

Implications and recommendations
Based on the findings from this study, recommendations
emerged for nursing practice, nursing education and
nursing research. Mental healthcare nurses should include
the families of the mental healthcare users during
psychotherapy to increase awareness, harness support
from significant others and enhance resilience. Community-
based mental health programmes should assist mental
healthcare users to blend into their communities well and
enhance resilience. Furthermore, research has to assess the
feasibility of incorporating skills to enhance adaptability,
purposefulness, self-esteem, social support and
networking amongst mental healthcare users to enhance

The main objective of this research study was to explore
the social support of young adults living with mental
illnesses in the city of Tshwane, Gauteng Province,
South Africa. The results indicated that the presence of
social support from family and friends led to participants
being resilient in the face of adversity. Recommendations
to facilitate resilience amongst young adults living
with mental illnesses were outlined. This study also
provided a direction for future research and mental health
education to include the tenets of resilience in an effort to
help young adults living with mental illnesses to build
and sustain resilience.

N.F.H. would like to acknowledge Tshwane University of
Technology for their continuing support.

Competing interests
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Authors’ contributions
N.F.H. was the principal investigator and authored the
manuscript. T.S.R. was the study’s supervisor and reviewed
the manuscript.

Funding information
This research received no specific grant from any
funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit

Data availability statement
Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no new
data were created or analysed in this study.

Page 7 of 7 Original Research Open Access

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those
of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official
policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.

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Conducting Successful Interviews


Research background information—Know your topic.

Plan your questions ahead of time.

Prepare key “talking” points—specific topical areas you want to be sure to cover during the interview.

Avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

Word questions as “neutrally” as possible to avoid influencing the answer.

Preparation cont…

Use “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “how” questions.

Use “why” questions carefully to avoid putting the interviewee on the defensive.

Choose a setting for the interview that will provide the fewest possible distractions and/or interruptions.

Clarify the length of time agreed upon for the interview.

Be appreciative and respectful of the interviewee. Remember, you are an outsider and a guest.

Getting Started

Explain the overall purpose of your interview:

What you plan to do with the information

How the interviewee will (or won’t) be identified when the information is shared (confidentiality, anonymity)

Obtain permission to take notes or record the interview.

Take a few minutes to get to know the person before asking your prepared questions.

Gather general information about the person’s role, work and/or views related to your topic.

Going Deeper

Use your prepared questions, but be flexible. Think like a detective. Be ready to explore new information you receive from the interviewee.

If appropriate, ask the interviewee to share examples from his or her experiences to illustrate key points.

Share information you have gathered and allow the interviewee to validate (or invalidate) that information.

Interview Tips

Use active listening:

Concentrate on what the person is saying.

Listen for meaning as well as words.

Avoid formulating your next question while the person is still talking.

Avoid predicting how the person will answer.

Lean towards the person.

Encourage the person to continue talking with brief comments such as “go on,” “uh-huh,” or “then?”

Interview Tips cont…

Brief periods of silence may be effective in drawing out additional, meaningful information.

Silence gives the respondent time to think and organize his/her thoughts without interruption.

Avoid interrupting the interviewee or finishing his/her sentences.

Interview Tips cont…

Ask a key question several ways, if appropriate, to get at the topic from different angles.

Notice how the interviewee shares information. Is he eager, hesitant, open, or guarded about sharing information? What does her body language tell you?

Ask for clarification by using phrases such as: “Tell me what you mean by…” or “Tell me more about…”

Closing the Interview

Invite the interviewee to add any thoughts, ideas or information that you haven’t thought to ask.

Find out if you may contact him/her again if more information is needed.

Thank the interviewee for his/her time and cooperation.

Vulnerable Population example

The vulnerable population I have chosen to learn more about is (name your

vulnerable population). I will be interviewing (name the professional and the client you

plan to interview. If you do not know yet, at least try to name the agency you plan to

visit. Often the professional you interview can point out a client who would allow you to

complete the client interview.

Risk factors facing (vulnerable population) include, but are not limited to:

1. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

2. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

3. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

4. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

5. Poverty: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

6. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

7. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

8. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.


9. Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

10.Risk factor: Then add two to three sentences that support this risk factor in the

population. Include a citation.

Questions for a professional:

You need to come up with a list of 12 questions for the professional. Please number

the list. It is good to start with questions about the professional’s background. Then,

learn what you can about the agency. Ask questions about the population the

agency serves. In addition, you can ask about barriers this population faces when

seeking healthcare services, challenges when working this population, and success

stories. It is always good to end the list of questions asking the professional if there

is anything else they would like to share.

Questions for the patient/client:

You need to come up with a list of 12 questions to ask the member of the vulnerable

population. Please number the list. It is good to start with an open-ended question

asking the individual to tell you about him or herself. Many of the remaining

questions will depend on the situation of the individual you are interviewing. You

might ask about family/support system, living arrangements, what lead to him/her

being in this situation, challenges, strengths, interests, goals and what might be

needed to reach these goals, and healthcare resources or difficulty getting

healthcare needs met. It is always good to end by asking if there is anything else

they would like to share.



Up in the section that talks about the risk factors, you are required to cite at least three

professional sources. Your textbook may be one of the sources. Remember, the

textbook is an edited book, so chapter authors need to be cited.

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