Sciences sociales et santé


Moroccan family caregivers facing mental illness: Burden, stigma, and coping strategies Volume 38, issue 4, Décembre 2020

* Sociologue, Université Mohammed V de Rabat, Maroc
a L’auteure tient à remercier Zakaria Rhani, anthropologue, UM5-Rabat, pour ses précieux commentaires et sa révision minutieuse.

Following the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric care in Morocco in the 1970s, families, long considered responsible for the illness of their relative, have become privileged partners in care. This change has resulted in the transfer of a significant part of hospital and state responsibilities to families, forcing them to deal with mental illness closely and on a daily basis. This paper aims to explore the experience of Moroccan family caregivers who take care of a relative suffering from a mental disorder. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirty caregivers, showing that the latter carry a heavy burden, related in part to the disruption of family relationships and professional activities, painful emotional reactions, and feelings of guilt. Likewise, fear of the unpredictability and potential danger of the unwell relative permeates the experiences of families and sometimes leads to the loss of social ties. Therefore, hospitalization is a respite that temporarily relieves caregivers of their burden despite the specter of stigma still surrounding the mental hospital. Analysis of the interviews also shows that, faced with this difficult experience mixing fear and stigma, caregivers develop coping strategies in order to be able to continue to take care of their relative.