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One-to-one peer support is a resource-oriented approach for patients with severe mental illness. Existing trials provided inconsistent results and commonly have methodological shortcomings, such as poor training and role definition of peer supporters, small sample sizes, and lack of blinded outcome assessments.
This is a randomised controlled trial comparing one-to-one peer support with treatment as usual. Eligible were patients with severe mental illnesses: psychosis, major depression, bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder of more than two years’ duration. A total of 216 patients were recruited through in- and out-patient services from four hospitals in Hamburg, Germany, with 114 allocated to the intervention group and 102 to the control group. The intervention was one-to-one peer support, delivered by trained peers and according to a defined role specification, in addition to treatment as usual over the course of six months, as compared to treatment as usual alone. Primary outcome was self-efficacy measured on the General Self-Efficacy Scale at six-month follow-up. Secondary outcomes included quality of life, social functioning, and hospitalisations.
Patients in the intervention group had significantly higher scores of self-efficacy at the six-month follow-up. There were no statistically significant differences on secondary outcomes in the intention to treat analyses.
The findings suggest that one-to-one peer support delivered by trained peer supporters can improve self-efficacy of patients with severe mental disorders over a one-year period. One-to-one peer support may be regarded as an effective intervention. Future research should explore the impact of improved self-efficacy on clinical and social outcomes.
Previous population-based studies did not support the view that biological and genetic causal models help increase social acceptance of people with mental illness. However, practically all these studies used un-labelled vignettes depicting symptoms of the disorders of interest. Thus, in these studies the public's reactions to pathological behaviour had been assessed rather than reactions to psychiatric disorders that had explicitly been labelled as such. The question arises as to whether results would have been similar if respondents had been confronted with vignettes with explicit mention of the respective diagnosis.
Analyses are based on data of a telephone survey in two German metropolises conducted in 2011. Case-vignettes with typical symptoms suggestive of depression or schizophrenia were presented to the respondents. After presentation of the vignette respondents were informed about the diagnosis.
We found a statistically significant association of the endorsement of brain disease as a cause with greater desire for social distance from persons with schizophrenia. In major depression, this relation was absent. With both disorders, there was no statistically significant association between the endorsement of hereditary factors as a cause and social distance.
Irrespective of whether unlabelled or labelled vignettes are employed, the ascription to biological or genetic causes seems not to be associated with a reduction of the public's desire for social distance from people with schizophrenia or depression. Our results corroborate the notion that promulgating biological and genetic causal models may not help decrease the stigma surrounding these illnesses.
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