Date of Conferral







Melissa Scotch


More than ten million American adults live with a serious mental illness (SMI). Given the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric facilities, caregivers and family members are often needed to care for these individuals. Due to SMI individuals’ extensive needs, caregivers frequently face unique challenges and experiences. Although research has been conducted on caring for individuals with SMI, less information exists about the experiences of rural caregivers of SMI individuals. The purpose of this study was to fill this gap in research by exploring the lived experiences of caregivers of SMI individuals in rural areas with the intention of understanding this population’s unique needs. The research questions focused on the experiences and stressors of caregivers of SMI individuals in a rural community. The frameworks were critical theory and Bowen’s family systems theory. A qualitative phenomenological design study was used employing semi-structured interviews with 4 participants who are caregivers of SMI individuals in a rural New York area. Data from the interviews were coded and analyzed using thematic analysis. Four themes emerged: impact on relationships, thoughts and feelings, impact on caregivers’ well-being, and rural mental health in this area. The potential impact for social change includes the dissemination of information to rural clinicians to assist caregivers with needed support and offer a framework for future curricula.