Family Characteristics of Nigerian Women with Severe Mental Illness Attending a Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic
AbstractObjective: To assess the family characteristics of Nigerian women with severe mental illness in order to understand the clinical implication and application.
Design: A descriptive cross-sectional study.
Setting: Psychiatric clinics of University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Nigeria.
Subjects: One hundred severely mentally ill women in their reproductive age.
Results: Majority of the women were educated, employed and had schizophrenia. About two-third were married and co-habiting with their spouses, 71% were parents. Many reported well functioning extended family with 55% having regular contact while 38 and 7% had irregular or hardly made contact respectively. Seventy one percent of mothers had lost custody of their children at a point. Family history of mental illness was present in 19%, while 25% had fears that their children may inherit illness. Majority reported adequate spousal and relatives’ support. Mothers without custody of any child were significantly more likely to have schizophrenia p=0.001, be currently unmarried p=0.021, have a non-residential marital relationship p=0.030; and experienced previous abortions p=0.028.
Conclusion: Women with severe mental illness particularly schizophrenics may have difficulties in the spheres of marriage and family living and may need help, an aggressive rehabilitation service that will assist patients in coping with family relationships and functioning is suggested.