Identifying the burden of care on relatives of the mentally ill remains an integral part of research in community psychiatric services. The present study aimed to assess the level and extent of burden on relatives in South Verona (northeast Italy). The South Verona catchment area provides a comprehensive, community-based psychiatric service with minimal reliance on the hospital. Patients were selected from the South Verona Psychiatric Case Register and 40 of their relatives were interviewed using structured assessments measuring objective burden, patient behaviour, coping strategies, satisfaction and needs for services. Both positive and negative aspects of burden were apparent, 92% of relatives continued to maintain contact with friends/relatives, 72% had no change to their family income, and 52% could manage any household disruptions during a crisis. The main negative effects for relatives included reduced leisure activities (57%) and psychological problems (67%). The greatest burden was on relatives of patients who were male (P = 0.016), unemployed (P = 0.013) and diagnosed with psychosis (P = 0.041). The implications of employment for patients and its association with lower levels of caregiver burden are discussed. (C) 2000 Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.
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