The purpose of this paper is to explore the lived experience of sport and exercise amongst a group of mental health service users. Participants were recruited from a north of England NHS mental health trust that was piloting a sport and exercise intervention for adults with mental health needs.
In depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with five mental health service users. The chosen phenomenological methodology was collaborative and interpretive.
Two essential themes were highlighted: “Intermittent health breaking through heavy clouds of illness” and “The cycle of recovery”. In addition, this person-centred research identified a number of intervention benefits beyond those relating to the impact of physical activity on mental health and wellbeing. The main findings are expressed using visual imagery which participants found expressed their perceptions and experiences better than written prose. This includes the way day-to-day illness impacts on the journey of health for people with mental health problems.
The intervention looked to help the transition between leaving mental health services and developing a regular routine to promote recovery. The study illuminates the voices of service users and identifies that sport and exercise for mental health service users can be beneficial for recovery and feelings of belonging which can strengthen perceptions of the self.
Few studies have approached this methodological approach. This study demonstrates the value of phenomenological research with a collaborative, person-centred or indeed an involved patient focus. This collaborative approach enabled a shared understanding of the phenomena.
Pickard, L., Rodriguez, A. and Lewis, K. (2017), "Person-centred phenomenology: service user experiences of exercise", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 119-126. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHSI-01-2017-0001
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