How do people with long-term mental health problems negotiate relationships with network members at times of crisis?

Sandra Walker, Anne Kennedy, Ivaylo Vassilev, Anne Rogers

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Background: Social network processes impact on the genesis and management of mental health problems. There is currently less understanding of the way people negotiate networked relationships in times of crisis compared to how they manage at other times.

Objective: This paper explores the patterns and nature of personal network involvement at times of crises and how these may differ from day‐to‐day networks of recovery and maintenance.

Method: Semi‐structured interviews with 25 participants with a diagnosis of long‐term mental health (MH) problems drawn from recovery settings in the south of England. Interviews centred on personal network mapping of members and resources providing support. The mapping interviews explored the work of network members and changes in times of crisis. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using a framework analysis.

Results: Three key themes were identified: the fluidity of network relationality between crisis and recovery; isolation as a means of crises management; leaning towards peer support. Personal network input retreated at times of crisis often as result of “ejection” from the network by participants who used self‐isolation as a personal management strategy in an attempt to deal with crises. Peer support is considered useful during a crisis, whilst the role of services was viewed with some ambiguity.

Conclusions: Social networks membership, and type and depth of involvement, is subject to change between times of crisis and everyday support. This has implications for managing mental health in terms of engaging with network support differently in times of crises versus recovery and everyday living.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-346
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number1
Early online date10 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • isolation
  • mental health
  • peer support
  • relationships
  • social networks


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