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The social construction of involvement of relatives in psychiatric treatment - a multisited field study of political, clinical and family discourse of involvement and their effects in the context of depression


The aim of the study is to produce novel insights into relatives’ perspectives on living with a depressed person in order to clarify the constitutive social conditions for involvement and how involvement may enable recovery of the depressed person.      


As a part of deinstitutionalization of in-hospital health care services in Denmark, there are weighty clinical and health political interest in involvement of relatives in treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill individuals in order reduce human and societal costs following mental illness. However, studies show that involvement may burden the relatives significantly and may strain the relational ties between the ill person and the relative. Thus, a clarification of the relatives’ perspectives on involvement and the social conditions for it are pivotal to the optimization and restoration of a meaningful family- and work life of the depressed person. This study of involvement processes addresses the conditions for and how relatives and individuals suffering from unipolar depression practice their joint engagements in problems concerning the illness within the family. 


The study is a multisited field work. Data is produced by gathering different policy materials, by talking to (interviews), interacting (participant observation) with relatives, depressed individuals and professionals in places and at times relevant to involvement such as in the families’ homes or in psychiatric hospitals. This strategy is well suited to gain insight into how the dominant practices of involvement between depressed individuals and their relatives are constituted by specific conditions across the families’ homes, clinical settings and political sites.        


Social rehabilitation, depression, user perspectives, social science, critical psychiatric research, field work, qualitative methods

PhD student
: Jeppe Oute Hansen

Period: 2011-2016  (PhD defence: February 26th 2016)


Employment: Department of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark


Principal Supervisor:

Lotte Huniche, Associate professor, Research Unit of User Perspectives, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark


Connie T. Nielsen, MD, Clinical associate professor, Psykiatrien Kolding-Vejle.


Anders Petersen, Associate professor, Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University.

Last Updated 22.03.2019