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Lived experiences: a focus group pilot study within the MentALLY project of mental healthcare among European users

  • Axelsson, Malin1
  • Schønning, Viktor2, 3
  • Bockting, Claudi4
  • Buysse, Ann5
  • Desmet, Mattias5
  • Dewaele, Alexis5
  • Giovazolias, Theodoros6
  • Hannon, Dewi5
  • Kafetsios, Konstantinos7
  • Meganck, Reitske5
  • Ntani, Spyridoula6
  • Rutten, Kris5
  • Triliva, Sofia6
  • Van Beveren, Laura5
  • Vandamme, Joke5
  • Øverland, Simon3, 8
  • Hensing, Gunnel2
  • 1 Malmö University, Jan Waldenströms gata 25 – F416, Malmö, SE-205 06, Sweden , Malmö (Sweden)
  • 2 The Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden , Gothenburg (Sweden)
  • 3 Department of Health Promotion, Division of Mental and Physical Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Bergen, Norway , Bergen (Norway)
  • 4 University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  • 5 Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 6 University of Crete, Rethymno, Crete, Greece , Rethymno (Greece)
  • 7 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece , Thessaloniki (Greece)
  • 8 University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway , Bergen (Norway)
Published Article
BMC Health Services Research
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12913-020-05454-5
Springer Nature


BackgroundMental healthcare is an important component in societies’ response to mental health problems. Although the World Health Organization highlights availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of healthcare as important cornerstones, many Europeans lack access to mental healthcare of high quality. Qualitative studies exploring mental healthcare from the perspective of people with lived experiences would add to previous research and knowledge by enabling in-depth understanding of mental healthcare users, which may be of significance for the development of mental healthcare. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to describe experiences of mental healthcare among adult Europeans with mental health problems.MethodIn total, 50 participants with experiences of various mental health problems were recruited for separate focus group interviews in each country. They had experiences from both the private and public sectors, and with in- and outpatient mental healthcare. The focus group interviews (N = 7) were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed through thematic analysis. The analysis yielded five themes and 13 subthemes.ResultsThe theme Seeking and trying to find help contained three subthemes describing personal thresholds for seeking professional help, not knowing where to get help, and the importance of receiving help promptly. The theme Awaiting assessment and treatment contained two subthemes including feelings of being prioritized or not and feelings of being abandoned during the often-lengthy referral process. The theme Treatment: a plan with individual parts contained three subthemes consisting of demands for tailored treatment plans in combination with medications and human resources and agreement on treatment. The theme Continuous and respectful care relationship contained two subthemes describing the importance of continuous care relationships characterised by empathy and respect. The theme Suggestions for improvements contained three subthemes highlighting an urge to facilitate care contacts and to increase awareness of mental health problems and a wish to be seen as an individual with potential.ConclusionFacilitating contacts with mental healthcare, a steady contact during the referral process, tailored treatment and empathy and respect are important aspects in efforts to improve mental healthcare. Recommendations included development of collaborative practices between stakeholders in order to increase general societal awareness of mental health problems.

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