The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Lived Experience of Koreans With Mental Illness

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Sun Kyung Kang, PhD, Professor, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea
Eun Hee Kim, MSW, Director, International NGO Life World, Seoul, South Korea
Purpose: Lived experience knowledge can be derived by persons with mental illness, in that every person has unique experience and responds to mental illness in their own way, while learned experience knowledge can be obtained by mental health professionals’ experience, researches, and their own perspectives. Mental health specialists’ need to recognize the difference between lived experience knowledge and learned experience knowledge. In this regard, This study is to reveal the lived experience of people with mental illness (hereafter “PMI”) in the context of a clubhouse in Korea, to provide social work professionals with a deeper understanding of PMI and help the professionals to facilitate the delivery of mental health services for PMI. For this purpose, the study addresses the following questions: What is it like to be an individual with mental illness in this vicious circle of sorrow? What is the meaning or essence of the lived experience of PMI in a clubhouse?

Methods: This qualitative study takes a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to describe a phenomenon as a lived experience and explores the meaning of people ascribing to lived experiences with respect to the phenomenon. Semi-structured interviews with nine participants were conducted to examine the vicious circle of sorrow facing individuals with mental illness. This study was conducted at a clubhouse, and for the participants, volunteers who were able to engage in a proper conversation with the researcher were recruited. In addition, data were collected by actively participating in the clubhouse’s unit activities twice a week; teaching English at the clubhouse once a week; and participating in two weekend programs. Each interview consisted of two parts and lasted 60 to 90 minutes. In the first part, the participants provided general information on their personal background, including their age and education level and the length of their mental illness. In the second part, they described their lived experience at the clubhouse.

Results: After the interviews with the nine participants, the transcripts were reviewed numerous times. This provided three main themes and nine subthemes. Further, 23 out of 132 meaning units were generalized as relevant sentences. The main themes were “entering a haven,” “living in a haven,” and “having a haven-like hometown.” The participants first joined the clubhouse (“entering a haven”) and then engaged in clubhouse life (“living in a haven”). Finally, through this experience, they came to understand the true meaning of a haven. That is, it became the comforting “hometown” in their hearts (“having a haven-like hometown”).

Implications: The results of the study indicated that the participants had a broad range of perspectives on mental rehabilitation, including their recognition that rehabilitation was something more than holding a regular job; their acceptance of their illness, situations, and limitations; and their desire for a meaningful and fulfilling life within the clubhouse. The results contributed to a better understanding of the lived experience of individuals with mental illness in the context of a clubhouse and their extended rehabilitation and provided important implications for social work professionals.