What does spirituality mean to black and minority ethnic people with mental health problems?
: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

  • Fazilah Twining

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Spirituality is recognised as a vital element of mental health care however the spiritual needs of individuals remain neglected. Although current studies examine the understanding of spirituality in mental health, the meaning of spirituality from the perspective of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people facing mental illness remains unclear. Mental health services in Britain serve an ethnically diverse population therefore, this research explores how people with mental health problems from a BME background experience spirituality and what it means to them to further an understanding of spirituality as a key element of mental health support.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with five individuals with mental health problems which provided rich and detailed narratives about personal spiritual experiences. An interpretative phenomenological analysis was employed to focus on how each person made sense of their experience of spirituality while dealing with mental illness.

Three distinct themes emerged from the analysis which illustrated that spiritual and religious beliefs can play a beneficial role for some people through providing a range of coping mechanisms while others may experience negative consequences associated with spiritual beliefs. Overall, within these narratives there was a sense that spiritual and religious beliefs were complex and highly individualised, regardless of religious denomination.

This study provides an insight into the meaning of spirituality to individuals with mental health problems which adds to the current knowledge development on the potential role of personal spiritual experiences in supporting people with mental illness. The analysis demonstrates that at the heart of spiritual care is the concept of an individualised approach which may help practitioners to pay particular attention to the personal meaning of spirituality as part of a person-centred approach to mental health care.
Date of AwardJun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorTony Lawrence (Supervisor), Deborah Lycett (Supervisor), Jess Bishop (Supervisor) & Gill Furze (Supervisor)

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