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Understanding the experience of 'burnout' in first-episode psychosis carers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Juliana Onwumere, Sandra Sirykaite, Joerg Schulz, Emma Man, Gareth James, Roya Afsharzadegan, Sanna Khan, Raythe Harvey, Jonathan Souray, David Rauen

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-24
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
Early online date12 Feb 2018
Accepted/In press5 Feb 2018
E-pub ahead of print12 Feb 2018
PublishedMay 2018


King's Authors


Background: The first onset of psychosis can exert a significant negative impact on the functioning and positive wellbeing of family carers. Carer reports of ‘burnout’ have recently been recorded in early psychosis carers, though the literature is scarce detailing our understanding of how burnout relates to the primary experience of caregiving. The current study investigated reports of burnout and its relationship with beliefs about caregiving and wellbeing in a large group of early psychosis carers who were routinely assessed within an early intervention team.
Methods and Materials: Using a cross-sectional design, 169 early psychosis carers completed the Maslach Burnout Inventory alongside measures of caregiving experiences, affect and wellbeing.
Results: The mean illness length for patients with psychosis was 18 months. Their mean age was 24.4 years and most was male (65%). The majority of carer participants were parental caregivers and living with their relative with psychosis. Across the three key burnout dimensions, 58% of the sample reported high levels of emotional exhaustion; 31% endorsed high levels of depersonalization; and 43% reported low levels personal accomplishment. The most severe level of burnout, reflecting elevated rates across all three dimensions, was observed in 16% of the sample. Carer burnout was positively associated with negative caregiving experiences (i.e. burden), poor affect, and reduced levels of positive wellbeing and perception of being in good health.
Conclusions: Reports by early psychosis carers of exhaustion, feeling inadequate and expressing negativity towards the relative they care for is not uncommon and are will be closely associated with their overall negative appraisals of caregiving. The results underscore the importance of developing targeted interventions during the early phase, which are designed to reduce the development and entrenchment of burnout responses in carers, but to also mitigate its negative

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