A Pilot Befriending Programme to increase social participation and social support among persons with Severe Mental Illness (SMI)
Persons with severe mental illness have been reported to face high levels of social exclusion due to the stigma of having a mental health illness and a lack of social capital to participate in leisure activities in the community. A lack of social integration and social networks can affect the individual’s sense of belonging in the community which may contribute to poorer mental health. Literature has shown that befriending programmes can provide opportunities for socio-participation and increased social support. Contact Point is a charity organisation in Edinburgh which offers programmes to support the emotional needs of persons with SMI. In line with the Scottish Government’s aims to reduce social isolation, Contact point is proposing to develop an Occupational Therapy-led befriending programme which aims to provide opportunities for individuals to build meaningful and stronger connections with the community as well as be able to participate in leisure activities. Occupational Therapy is a client-centered health profession which aims to promote health, well-being and inclusion among community members. The proposed pilot befriending programme will involve pairing volunteers and participants with an activity pack which consists of an activity booklet, a subsidised activity card and a stipend to participate in socio-recreational activities for two to four hours weekly. Throughout the one-year programme, varying levels of support will be provided to participants and befrienders. Key partners in this programme will include various leisure centers, Volunteer Edinburgh as well as Community Mental Health Teams and Consumer-Drop-In-Centers in Edinburgh.