How people from Chinese backgrounds make sense of and respond to the experiences of mental distress: Thematic analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Liverpool John Moores University
  • Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong


Late presentation and low utilization of mental health services are common among Chinese populations. An understanding of their journey towards mental health care helps to identify timely and appropriate intervention.

We aimed to examine how Chinese populations make sense of the experiences of mental distress, and how this understanding influences their pathways to mental health care.

We undertook in-depth interviews with fourteen people with mental health problems (MHPs) and sixteen family members. Thematic analysis was used to analyse data.

Different conceptualization of mental distress and the stigma attached to MHPs explained why most participants accessed services at crisis points. Because of mental illness stigma, they were reluctant to seek help outside of the family. Participants used a pragmatic pluralistic approach to incorporate ritual healing and Western interventions to manage mental distress as they travelled further on the pathway journey. Families play a key role in the journey and are prepared to visit different parts of the world to seek traditional healers.

Implications for practice
Mental health nurses need to adopt a transcultural working approach to address mental health issues so that family will get the support needed to continue their caring role.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-599
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number8
Early online date31 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • Chinese , cultural issues , mental distress , mental health care , shame stigma