Meeting unmet needs of families of persons with mental illness: Evaluation of a family peer support helpline

Ron Shor*, Menachem Birnbaum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations

Abstract

Family members of persons with mental illness experience multiple stressors stemming from the burdens of caring for the ill family member. A potential source of help for this population is a family peer support helpline. Knowledge, however, is lacking about the types of help offered in such a service and its benefit for this population. In a study conducted in Israel, 800 calls made by family members of persons with mental illness to a family peer support helpline were analyzed utilizing an instrument developed for the family peers' evaluation of the calls. In addition, researchers conducted 77 follow-up interviews with callers who agreed to be interviewed. The findings indicate the importance of the life experience, flexibility and anonymity of the family peers in providing types of help that are complementary to the help provided by formal services. The most frequent categories of support provided were emotional support, information and advice. This help could assist family members of persons with mental illness with their care-giving role, as well as provide them with an alternative source of help if they experience difficulties with professionals. It could also serve as a catalyst in encouraging them to establish and maintain contact with the formal mental health services. Recognizing and supporting the contribution of a family peer support helpline would encourage its development within the range of services available for this population.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)482-488
Number of pages7
JournalCommunity Mental Health Journal
Volume48
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was funded by the Division for Service Development, the Research and Planning Administration of the National Insurance Institute, Israel. The author’s wishes to thank the family peers of the Benafshenu organization for their collaboration and significant contribution to this research and particularly to Leah Levy, a family peer in the helpline, and to Dr. Haim Gilo who developed the instrument which served as a base for the instrument utilized in this study. The authors also wishes to thank Shula Alper-ovitz, MA., the director of the organization during the time this research was conducted to Nechama Brinbaum for her important contribution to this research and to Charlene Drobny for her significant contribution to this manuscript.

Keywords

  • Families
  • Family peer
  • Helpline
  • Mental illness

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