Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Nursing


School of Nursing


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Supervisor

Heather McAlpine

Second Supervisor

Mirinm Langridge

Third Supervisor

Rycki Maltby


The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of mental illness in the adult Malawian context. Using the interpretive paradigm, content analysis was used to uncover the lived experiences of mental illness. This study was based on the philosophy that meaning of a phenomenon is best understood if studied within its specific context and within Parse's theoretical framework. Two to four per cent of the global population share the experience of mental illness, however, little is known of individual experiences within the Malawian context. Much of the literature has focused on the physiological aspects, causes, and therapies involved in managing mental illness. Given the less than optimal availability of literature on the topic, this descriptive study was conducted in Zomba, Malawi. A convenience sample of 10 adult outpatients (six women and four men) with schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorders were interviewed to elicit descriptions of experiences of their conditions. The participants' mental conditions were considered stable at the time they were attending the community mental health services. As a result of their experiences, the researcher categorised the participants' descriptions as follows; view of the self, view of their illness, other peoples' views, stigmatisation and discrimination, loss, suffering and distress, fear, gender issues, and coping strategies. The findings showed that this study made a contribution to nursing knowledge that is relevant to the understanding of mental illness. It is possible that this knowledge may also form the basis for recommendations in nursing care and counselling services for the mentally ill persons in Malawi.