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

Community Ment Health J. 2012 Aug;48(4):482-8. doi: 10.1007/s10597-012-9504-3. Epub 2012 Mar 24.


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.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Community Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Hotlines* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders* / psychology
  • Peer Group*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires