Volunteer programs have been used to alter attitudes, provide long-term knowledge towards mental illness and increase the quality of life of consumers receiving volunteer services. Sixteen volunteers completed an 18-hour training program and in pairs worked with 11 consumers over 4 months. Sixteen volunteers completed training measures of knowledge and attitudes scales. Pre and post program quality of life and behavioural functioning measures were taken on 5 consumers. Volunteers maintained their knowledge of mental illness over 6 months and had significant increases in their comfort in interactions with people who have mental illness. Case managers, consumers and volunteers all reported high levels of satisfaction with the program but there were no significant changes in behavioural functioning or quality of life for consumers over 4 months of receiving volunteer support. High levels of client disability and the need for longer term follow-up were identified as factors needing to be addressed in future studies.
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Pickard, J. & Deane, F. P. (2000). Evaluation of the helping hands volunteer program for people with mental illness. Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 6 (1), 45-56.