From 1999 to 2001, researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of the Family-to-Family Education Program, a widely used program for families of persons with serious mental illness.
Family members caring for mentally ill kin often report feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and abandoned. While family-focused peer support and education programs to reduce patient relapse and to enhance both patient and family well-being have grown in popularity, these programs have not been rigorously evaluated.
The most widely used peer-led program is the Family-to-Family Education Program, developed in the early 1990s by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Arlington, Va.
This is a 12-week program taught by well-trained family member volunteers using a highly structured scripted manual to provide information about mental illnesses, treatments and rehabilitation.
Key Findings: The investigators reported the following findings in an article that is in press at a peer-reviewed journal, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica:
- When the program ended, persons attending the Family-to-Family Education Program reported:
- Less subjective burden of illness.
- Increased empowerment.
- Greater knowledge of serious mental illness and the mental health system.
- Greater ability to cope with illness, compared with pre-program results.
- The program had no significant impact on the objective burden of illness.
- Although symptoms of depression significantly improved during the study period, the investigators could not clearly establish a relationship between this finding and the Family-to-Family Education Program.