Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Living with Serious Mental Illness: The Role of Personal Loss in Recovery and Quality of Life

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Catherine Stein

Second Advisor

Dryw Dworsky (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Jennifer Gillespie (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Alexander Goberman (Committee Member)


As the mental health field is moving towards a recovery based model of serious mental illness for both conceptualization and treatment, further research into the factors which may impact recovery and quality of life are needed. Currently, there are no studies which examine how personal loss due to mental illness or cognitive insight relate to factors such as quality of life and recovery. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relative contribution of demographic factors, self-reports of psychiatric symptoms, and individual factors of cognitive insight and personal loss in describing variation in reports of quality of life and recovery from mental illness. It was hypothesized that cognitive insight and personal loss would each predict a significant portion of the variance in scores of quality of life and recovery from mental illness. A sample of 65 veterans with serious mental illness from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center completed structured interviews regarding psychiatric symptomotology and quality of life and completed questionnaires related to demographics, cognitive insight, personal loss due to mental illness, and recovery. Thirteen significant hierarchical regression models emerged. Results indicate that personal loss is the strongest predictor of facets of quality of life and recovery from serious mental illness, explaining incremental variance in ten of the regression models. Cognitive insight, however, was found to only explain incremental variance in one aspect of quality of life. Additionally, psychiatric symptoms and demographic variables such as diagnosis and living arrangement were also found to be significant predictors of aspects of quality of life and recovery. These findings highlight the importance of personal loss due to mental illness as a construct for further investigation and which has powerful implications for clinical intervention. Additionally, these results suggest the need for further examination of cognitive insight. The implications of these findings for future research and clinical practice, as well as the limitations of the study are discussed.