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Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2009 Jul;55(4):291-305. doi: 10.1177/0020764008097090.

Compeer friends: a qualitative study of a volunteer friendship programme for people with serious mental illness.

Author information

1
The Albert & Jessie Danielsen Institute, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA. mccorkle@bu.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

People with serious mental illness (SMI) experience numerous barriers to developing and maintaining friendships.

AIMS:

To explore the benefits and drawbacks of an intentional friendship programme (Compeer, Inc), which develops new social relationships for people with SMI by matching them in one-to-one relationships with community volunteers for weekly social activities.

METHODS:

Twenty clients and volunteers, in Compeer friendships for different lengths of time, participated in individual semi-structured qualitative interviews. Several volunteers were themselves current or former consumers of mental health services.

RESULTS:

Participants reported numerous benefits to participating in Compeer. Clients and volunteers spoke enthusiastically about the benefits of gaining a friend. Many intentional relationships deepened over several years into mutually beneficial friendships. Most clients became more outgoing, sociable and active, with increased self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. Volunteers who had experienced mental illness themselves provided unique added benefits to the relationship. Drawbacks were minimal and financial and other costs to volunteers were low.

CONCLUSIONS:

Intentional friendships can be a potent yet cost-effective way to help people with SMI develop social skills, expand their social networks, and improve their quality of life. However, because relationships take several years to develop, quantitative evaluations using short follow-up periods may underestimate programme effectiveness.

PMID:
19553360
DOI:
10.1177/0020764008097090
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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