Authors: Kate Walker, NSW
Event: 2003 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Families, Siblings, Parents
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: The NSW Dept of Health two year funded ARAFMI Family to Family Volunteer Project which commenced in November 2002 is designed to provide support and information to families visiting their ill relative at James Fletcher Hospital, Newcastle, New South Wales. The project, which has full support of local health service administrators, utilises volunteers who themselves have had a history of being family members, partners or close friends of persons with mental illness. Its objectives are to: a) provide personal and emotional support to families/carers of people with a mental illness, b) provide information to families carers/carers of people with a mental illness and c) improve overall service responsiveness to the needs and circumstances of families. Difficulties have been experienced in attracting and retaining sufficient volunteers to provide a full service and in attracting sufficient demand from users. It is thought that these problems may be lessened as the project becomes more established and known. However the burden on carers of persons with mental illness can be considerable, with social stigma and often lack of sufficient information from service providers or others not assisting, and it may be that few carers, or former carers, will have sufficient time or inclination to be involved as volunteer workers helping others. Further, it is possible that carers’ perceptions, affected by the professional mystique surrounding medicine, of volunteer workers, compared to paid clinical workers, mitigate against help seeking. This paper traces the history and progress of the Family to Family Volunteer Project and, by recourse to the literature, examines a number of issues which may be pertinent in the development of similar programmes in the future.
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