Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Peer Mentoring Found to Be Effective for People With Serious Mental Illness

Being paired with a person who is willing to share stories of their recovery from serious mental illness and provide coaching and encouragement may lead patients with serious mental illness to experience greater improvements in psychiatric symptoms and functioning than those who receive standard care only, according to a study published yesterday in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

“This study provides evidence in support of theories and emerging research that peers may play uniquely beneficial roles in connecting with individuals who may be difficult to engage or less responsive to traditional outpatient care,” wrote Maria O'Connell, Ph.D., of Yale University School of Medicine and colleagues.

O'Connell and colleagues enrolled 76 patients who were diagnosed with a major psychotic or mood disorder and had at least two psychiatric hospitalizations or more than three emergency department visits within the past 18 months. The study participants were randomly assigned to either standard inpatient and post-discharge community care or standard care plus a peer mentor. Peer mentors were individuals who self-identified as being in recovery from serious mental illness and who agreed to share their experiences to assist others. The mentors were trained in principles of recovery psychiatry by the study supervisors, but were also instructed to work independently and use their own experiences as the basis from which to provide support.

Nine months after hospital discharge, participants assigned to mentors had greater reductions in substance use as well as greater improvement in several components of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS), including physical health, hygiene/self-care, and unusual behavior compared with those who received standard care only. Individuals with mentors also had a significantly longer average time to rehospitalization than those receiving standard care—270 days compared with 135 days.

“The suggestive findings from this randomized but small-scale study warrant further testing with larger and more representative samples,” the authors concluded. “To the degree that they are useful, though, they suggest that peer support services that build explicitly and directly on a peer’s lived experiences of mental illness and recovery may offer more than simply adjunctive, nonspecific support.”

To read more on this topic, see the Psychiatric News article “Orientation Program Shows Value of Recovery-Oriented Care.

(Image: iStock/Steve Debenport)


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