The perspective of families of people with a severe mental illness has become a focus of interest for mental health professionals. This paper reports the results of an ethnographic study of families' perceptions of dealing with a severe mental illness in their midst. The findings suggest that the families face continual role conflict and ambiguity as the illness moves through characteristic stages. Attention is given to the families' experience and needs and to social workers' responsibilities for involving and communicating with such families in order to reduce a portion of their burden.

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