UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding mental health experiences of adults 50 years and older living in the Similkameen : a qualitative study using photovoice Airth, Lauren


Background: Mental health is a major health concern in Canada. As the population ages, adults aged 50 and over will represent a larger proportion of Canadians with mental health concerns. This population is also increasing in size in rural areas; yet, there is a paucity of literature regarding the experiences of older adults with mental health concerns in rural areas. Research Design: This thesis addressed: What are the experiences of adults aged 50 and over with a mental health concern in a rural community in British Columbia? Community A was a rural town in the southern interior of BC. The thesis used critical social theory and interpretive description and data were collected using photovoice. Cameras were provided to eight participants aged 50 and over who had experienced a mental health concern and who lived in Community A. They photographed meaningful parts of their lives and shared photos in individual interviews. Interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide. Findings: Five themes were identified using constant comparison. For the first theme, mental wellbeing, participants unveiled eight facets of wellbeing: personal qualities, hope, spirituality and gratitude, nature, routine and productivity, medication, substance use, family, and isolation. For the second theme, losses, participants described how they were affected by the loss of abilities, friends, family, lifestyles, and thoughts regarding death. The third theme, stigma, was experienced internally and publicly. The fourth theme was services and supports. Participants identified barriers to support, as well as negative and positive experiences when they accessed services, and the importance of informal supports. Finally, participants’ mental health was influenced by their environment (home, finances, community). Discussion: These themes existed in tension with one another. While participants had ways of caring for their wellbeing, these strategies were inhibited by stigma. Stigma was the underlying factor for many of the complexities uncovered. Isolation, poverty, and access to services were all related to stigmatizing experiences. Additionally, participants’ personal histories often influenced their coping strategies, and their ability to reflect on their mental health needs. Themes informed recommendations made for policy development, education, health services delivery, and future research.

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