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Concept: Self-help groups for mental health


An understanding of recovery as a personal and subjective experience has emerged within mental health systems. This meaning of recovery now underpins mental health policy in many countries. Developing a focus on this type of recovery will involve transformation within mental health systems. Human systems do not easily transform. In this paper, we identify seven mis-uses (“abuses”) of the concept of recovery: recovery is the latest model; recovery does not apply to “my” patients; services can make people recover through effective treatment; compulsory detention and treatment aid recovery; a recovery orientation means closing services; recovery is about making people independent and normal; and contributing to society happens only after the person is recovered. We then identify ten empirically-validated interventions which support recovery, by targeting key recovery processes of connectedness, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment (the CHIME framework). The ten interventions are peer support workers, advance directives, wellness recovery action planning, illness management and recovery, REFOCUS, strengths model, recovery colleges or recovery education programs, individual placement and support, supported housing, and mental health trialogues. Finally, three scientific challenges are identified: broadening cultural understandings of recovery, implementing organizational transformation, and promoting citizenship.

Concepts: Health economics, Medicine, Human, Mental health, Illness, Perception, Mental disorder, Self-help groups for mental health


Crisis resolution teams (CRTs) provide assessment and intensive home treatment in a crisis, aiming to offer an alternative for people who would otherwise require a psychiatric inpatient admission. They are available in most areas in England. Despite some evidence for their clinical and cost-effectiveness, recurrent concerns are expressed regarding discontinuity with other services and lack of focus on preventing future relapse and readmission to acute care. Currently evidence on how to prevent readmissions to acute care is limited. Self-management interventions, involving supporting service users in recognising and managing signs of their own illness and in actively planning their recovery, have some supporting evidence, but have not been tested as a means of preventing readmission to acute care in people leaving community crisis care. We thus proposed the current study to test the effectiveness of such an intervention. We selected peer support workers as the preferred staff to deliver such an intervention, as they are well-placed to model and encourage active and autonomous recovery from mental health problems.

Concepts: Health care, Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Mental health, Mental disorder, Psychiatry, Self-help groups for mental health


Self-guided mental health interventions that are disseminated via the Web have the potential to circumvent barriers to treatment and improve public mental health. However, self-guided interventions often fail to attract consumers and suffer from user nonadherence. Uptake of novel interventions could be improved by consulting consumers from the beginning of the development process in order to assess their interest and their preferences. Interventions can then be tailored using this feedback to optimize appeal.

Concepts: Health care, Psychology, Medicine, Improve, Mental health, Educational psychology, Consumer theory, Self-help groups for mental health


The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) is an influential service-user led organisation that promotes self-help as an important aspect of recovery. This study presents the first systematic assessment of the impact and effectiveness of HVN self-help groups. A customized 45-item questionnaire, the Hearing Voices Groups Survey, was sent to 62 groups affiliated with the English HVN. 101 responses were received. Group attendance was credited with a range of positive emotional, social and clinical outcomes. Aspects that were particularly valued included: opportunities to meet other voice hearers, provision of support that was unavailable elsewhere, and the group being a safe and confidential place to discuss difficult issues. Participants perceived HVN groups to facilitate recovery processes and to be an important resource for helping them cope with their experiences. Mental health professionals can use their expertise to support the successful running of these groups.

Concepts: Psychology, Clinical trial, Mental health, Clinical psychology, Psychiatry, Mental health professional, Self-help groups for mental health, Hearing Voices Movement


Successful integration of nutrition interventions into large-scale development programmes from nutrition-relevant sectors, such as agriculture, can address critical underlying determinants of undernutrition and enhance the coverage and effectiveness of on-going nutrition-specific activities. However, evidence on how this can be done is limited. This study examines the feasibility of delivering maternal, infant, and young child nutrition behaviour change communication through an innovative agricultural extension programme serving nutritionally vulnerable groups in rural India. The existing agriculture programme involves participatory production of low-cost videos promoting best practices and broad dissemination through village-level women’s self-help groups. For the nutrition intervention, 10 videos promoting specific maternal, infant, and young child nutrition practices were produced and disseminated in 30 villages. A range of methods was used to collect data, including in-depth interviews with project staff, frontline health workers, and self-help group members and their families; structured observations of mediated video dissemination sessions; nutrition knowledge tests with project staff and self-help group members; and a social network questionnaire to assess diffusion of promoted nutrition messages. We found the nutrition intervention to be well-received by rural communities and viewed as complementary to existing frontline health services. However, compared to agriculture, nutrition content required more time, creativity, and technical support to develop and deliver. Experimentation with promoted nutrition behaviours was high, but sharing of information from the videos with non-viewers was limited. Key lessons learned include the benefits of and need for collaboration with existing health services; continued technical support for implementing partners; engagement with local cultural norms and beliefs; empowerment of women’s group members to champion nutrition; and enhancement of message diffusion mechanisms to reach pregnant women and mothers of young children at scale. Understanding the experience of developing and delivering this intervention will benefit the design of new nutrition interventions which seek to leverage agriculture platforms.

Concepts: Health care, Pregnancy, Infant, Health, Agriculture, Nutrition, Sociology, Self-help groups for mental health


Relapse rates are high among individuals with substance use disorders (SUD), and for young people pursuing a college education, the high rates of substance use on campus can jeopardize recovery. Collegiate Recovery Programs (CRPs) are an innovative campus-based model of recovery support that is gaining popularity but remains under-investigated. This study reports on the first nationwide survey of CRP-enrolled students (N=486 from 29 different CRPs). Using an online survey, we collected information on background, SUD and recovery history, and current functioning. Most students (43% females, mean age=26) had used multiple substances, had high levels of SUD severity, high rates of treatment and 12-step participation. Fully 40% smoke. Many reported criminal justice involvement and periods of homelessness. Notably, many reported being in recovery from, and currently engaging in multiple behavioral addictions-e.g., eating disorders, and sex and love addiction. Findings highlight the high rates of co-occurring addictions in this under-examined population and underline the need for treatment, recovery support programs and college health services to provide integrated support for mental health and behavioral addictions to SUD-affected young people.

Concepts: Psychology, University, Addiction, Mental disorder, College, Substance abuse, Drug rehabilitation, Self-help groups for mental health


Peer support is support provided by and for people with similar experiences. As students turn to peers for support with their mental health, peer support may provide an opportunity to engage students at an informal level and avoid some barriers to help-seeking.

Concepts: Mental health, Student, Peer group, Self-help groups for mental health


Women’s participation in microfinance-based self-help groups (SHGs) and the resultant social capital may provide a basis to address the gap in health attainment for poor women and their children. We investigated the effect of combining a health program designed to improve health behaviours and outcomes with a microfinance-based SHG program.

Concepts: Poverty, Self-help groups for mental health


Increasingly, the involvement of persons with lived experiences of mental illness and service use is viewed as key to improving the relevance and utility of mental health research and service innovation. Guided by the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research we developed an online tool for assisted self-help in mental health. The resulting tool, PsyConnect, is ready for testing in two communities starting 2014. This case study reports from the design phase which entailed clarifying very basic questions: Who is the primary target group? What are the aims? What functions are priorities? Roles and responsibilities? What types of evidence can legitimize tool design decisions? Here we highlight the views of service users as a basis for discussing implications of user involvement for service design and research. Case description: PsyConnect has become a tool for those who expect to need assistance over long periods of time regardless of their specific condition(s). The aim is to support service users in gaining greater overview and control, legitimacy, and sense of continuity in relationships. It has a personalized “my control panel” which depicts status- process goals. Functionality includes support for; mapping life domains; medication overview; crisis management; coping exercises; secure messaging; and social support. While the types of evidence that can legitimize design decisions are scattered and indirectly relevant, newer trends in recovery will guide further refinements.

Concepts: Mental health, Research, Case study, Mental disorder, Design, Mental illness, Self-help groups for mental health, Service design


Self-help groups in the United Kingdom continue to grow in number and address virtually every conceivable health condition, but they remain the subject of very little theoretical analysis. The literature to date has predominantly focused on their therapeutic effects on individual members. And yet they are widely presumed to fulfil a broader civic role and to encourage democratic citizenship. The article uses Habermas' model of the public sphere as an analytical tool with which to reconsider the literature on self-help groups in order to increase our knowledge of their civic functions. In doing this it also aims to illustrate the continuing relevance of Habermas' work to our understanding of issues in health and social care. We consider, within the context of current health policies and practices, the extent to which self-help groups with a range of different forms and functions operate according to the principles of communicative rationality that Habermas deemed key to democratic legitimacy. We conclude that self-help groups' civic role is more complex than is usually presumed and that various factors including groups' leadership, organisational structure and links with public agencies can affect their efficacy within the public sphere.

Concepts: Sociology, Greek loanwords, United Kingdom, Democracy, J├╝rgen Habermas, Pragmatics, Communicative rationality, Self-help groups for mental health