UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Being there : understanding the support systems of adults 50 years and older with mental health concerns who live in a rural community in BC Paterson, Carley Erin


The people we connect with, socially and personally, are important for our well-being. This is especially true for adults with mental health concerns (MHC), such as depression and anxiety, or substance use problems. Despite wanting to be connected, they often become socially isolated. Support can be especially important for those who are 50 years and older and live in a rural community where health and social services are limited. However, research focusing on those who provide this support is limited. This thesis explored the experiences and perspectives of family, friends, and co-workers who provide social/personal support to individuals with MHCs 50 years or older in BC rural communities. Nine individuals who provide support to adults 50 years and older with some type of MHC in various rural BC communities were interviewed. Interpretive descriptive qualitative methods were used, and the findings were interpreted and analyzed using a theoretical framework based in ecological systems theory. The importance of contextual factors that impacted these relationships were identified, including the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, age-related factors, and the context of the rural community. Three themes were identified: ‘the makings of a deep connection,’ ‘behind the scenes of a relationship,’ and ‘the pressure and burden of providing support.’ The first theme highlighted the components of the deep connection in these relationships, characterized by the importance of communication and engaging in activity with or for each other. Factors 'behind the scenes of these relationships' included participants’ personal responsibilities or their own MHC. These contributed to feelings of pressure and burden. Other factors that contributed to the sense of burden included a feeling that they were alone in providing support. These feelings of pressure and burden negatively impacted the deep connections. In contrast, motivations identified in the second theme, such as love and connection, contributed positively to relationships and, at times, helped to lessen the feelings of pressure and burden. These findings informed recommendations made for policy development, health service development, and future research.

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