Jenna Audrey Lynn Gunnels, Psy.D., is a 2019 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.

Dissertation Committee:

Betsy Bates-Freed, PsyD Committee Chairperson

Bretty Kia-Keating, EdD, Committee Member

Athena Lewis, PsyD Committee Member


mental illness; psychiatric hospitalization; family estrangement; outpatient treatment; mental health, convenience sample, archival data

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Most crisis stabilization, and mental health treatment in general, is delivered solely to the individual in crisis, by professionals who are careful to protect the individual’s right to privacy. An unintended consequence of this objective, unfortunately, can be the undermining of the potentially significant role played by family members in the treatment, maintenance, and stabilization of individuals with mental illness. Without family involvement, some individuals burdened by mental illness slowly and steadily decline. This study investigates how familial relationships impact mental health problems, specifically psychiatric hospital readmissions. The goal of this study is to determine whether being estranged from one’s family increased the number of times an individual was readmitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital. This study makes use of de-identified, archival data from Ventura County Behavioral Health (California), to examine the association between family support and inpatient hospital readmission rates. This data set provides information regarding clients’ previous hospitalizations, if any, Crisis Team contacts, number of years of outpatient mental health treatment, and documented family support. Furthermore, this study aims to identify possible recommendations for improving family involvement in an individual’s care in an attempt to reduce the number of inpatient psychiatric hospital readmissions. These treatment recommendations will seek to improve the quality of life for the individual suffering from mental illness, as well as their family; as well as strive to save scarce resources (personal and societal). In summary, this study aims to shine light on a bleak and controversial issue that is impacting millions of Americans. Better research may lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatment of mental illness, leading to longer, happier lives for individuals who are touched by mental illness. The consequences of inadequate treatment for the mentally ill population are too devastating to ignore. May they no longer have to bear the burden of incarceration, potentially avoidable hospital readmissions, homelessness and the stigma that follows them wherever they go. This Dissertation is available in Open Access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLink ETD Center,


ORCID: 0000-002-3248-1748