A ‘near‐life experience’: lived experiences of spirituality from the perspective of people who have been subject to inpatient psychiatric care
Methods: After approval from a regional ethical board,eleven participants were recruited from two organisations for people with mental health problems. Participants were asked to narrate about spiritual experiences and occasions where such experiences had come close. The transcribed interviews were analysed by means of a phenomenological hermeneutical approach.
Findings: A structural analysis of the text resulted in three themes; perceiving the presence of something extra mundane, making sense of reality and struggling for acceptance. The comprehensive understanding highlights spiritual experiences as going beyond religion, even though religious experiences appear as part of it. These experiences can indeed be a resource contributing to experiences of hope, connectedness, meaning and coherence in life. However, they can also give rise to doubt, anxiety and feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Rather than understanding spiritual experiences as being either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, we could approach spirituality as something that is always present in alternate and inter-related forms. Metaphorically, this could be understood as a ‘near-life experience’, summarising participants’experiences related to their struggle with issues related to suffering and health which are simultaneously present.
Conclusions: If psychiatric nurses could approach this complexity and, without being judgemental, explore seemingly positive and negative experiences of spirituality as dialectically related to each other, rather than viewing them as either resources or problems, this could contribute to insiderness care and hopefully also support people who struggle with these experiences to seek help when needed.