Social connection is a fundamental human need, but challenging for individuals with characteristics that are socially stigmatized. Parenting with mental illness presents obstacles, as well as opportunities, for connection. In the present study, we examined connectedness within a personal recovery paradigm for rural mothers with a mental illness. In-depth interviews with 17 mothers with a mental illness, utilizing constructivist grounded theory, resulted in six categories of meaning, including 'yearning for connection', 'connecting intensely', 'encountering rejection and exclusion', 'choosing isolation', 'being known', and 'finding peers/helping others'. Women expressed a strong desire for connection, but for many, prior experiences of trauma and rejection created barriers to the development of trust, preventing some women from seeking opportunities for connection. Connectedness to self and significant others, and a broader life meaning and purpose can support and expedite personal recovery from mental illness for rural women. However the factors that contribute to the mental illness might also inhibit the development of trust needed to attain social connection. Increasing connectedness in mothers with mental illness is a complex endeavour requiring concerted focus as distinct from other service-delivery goals. The perinatal period could be a key time for intervention.
- Mental illness
- Personal recovery