It is widely accepted that family and carer participation in adult mental health care is desirable. However, rarely is service development informed by representative opinions of both carers and service users. This study took place in the context of a larger project to introduce and evaluate practice standards relating to family participation. The aim of this paper is to explore the perceptions of service users and carers to carer participation in adult mental health services. One hundred and twenty-nine service users and 86 family members recruited via hospital and community settings completed a survey which addressed obstacles to family participation, perceived benefits of participation and areas for improvement. Many service users and family were entirely satisfied with existing levels of family participation. Different needs for information, support and the nature of participation in mental health care are highlighted in acute hospital and community settings. Across settings, the provision of support and accessing services were identified as the most useful aspects of family participation. Meaningful carer and family participation in mental health care should proceed from respectful connection with carers and be informed by need which will vary depending on setting and circumstances.
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