Background and aim: People suffering from mental illness and their experiences of attitudes towards them are rarely investigated from the perspective of the individual. The aim was to gain an understanding of how a group of mental health patients experienced social relationships in personal settings as well as in society. Method: Open interviews with twenty-five mental health patients were conducted and analysed with a qualitative content analysis. Result: The essence of the result was that mental health patients’ experiences are still not taken enough into account, neither by mental health professionals nor by their social networks. This was underpinned by four core categories: Patients’ experience of deteriorated and reduced social contacts due to various degrees of acceptance and knowledge of people in general; service users reported on difficulties with social contacts in general, with family relationships, relationships with friends and workmates and with employers; reduced life opportunities were expressed, including violated self-image and poor coping competence and, ambivalent experiences of contact with the mental health services were reported. Conclusion and clinical implication: The present study contributes to the understanding of mental health patients’ experiences of professional services and of their social networks. This knowledge may strengthen the implications of patient-centred care essential for the outcome of the care.
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