MHA's Compeer program matches community volunteers with adults in mental health recovery programs. The volunteers provide one-to-one supportive friendship and mentoring relationships to offset the loneliness and social isolation that can accompany mental illness. Compeer is guided by a simple premise validated by research—that the support of friends is healing. The Compeer Model, based on recovery principles of autonomy, relatedness, and competency, is adaptable to meet the needs of local communities and different demographics, and is used by 53 affiliates in the United States, Australia, and Canada.
MHA’s Compeer volunteers coordinate regular social activities such as visiting a local park, eating out, or watching a movie with a Compeer friend. The power of friendship is demonstrated as persons matched with a Compeer volunteer often experience fewer hospitalizations, have increased self-esteem, and are more likely to adhere to their medication and treatment programs.
Compeer Inc. (www.compeer.org) provides supportive leadership to its affiliate programs through training, consultation, recruitment, and administrative services. Compeer was founded in 1973 in Rochester, NY. Compeer programs match community volunteers with youth, adults, veterans, and the elderly living with mental illness. Volunteers provide supportive friendships and mentoring relationships to improve the quality of life of individuals and families in mental health recovery programs. MHA has offered the Compeer program locally since 1990, and benefits nearly 100 adults per year.
The Compeer Model is now included in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP). “Compeer has brought healing friendships to thousands of people around the world,” said Bernice Skirboll who founded Compeer and serves on Compeer Inc.’s Board of Directors. “The inclusion of our model in the NREPP supports our efforts to improve the lives of individuals and families living with mental illness.” In addition, the American Psychological Association recognizes Compeer as a best-practices model.
Compeer friends meet face-to-face with their matches at least twice a month. Many matches go to a movie, have lunch, play sports, or enjoy other social activities. Costs are shared between the volunteer and the friend. Volunteers are involved in the matching process so that they may choose a same-gender friend who is compatible by age, interests, and geographical location. Volunteers must complete an application and screening process prior to placement and will receive an orientation, ongoing training, and support from the MHA. Complete and submit the online application (form is writable in browsers other than Internet Explorer.)
Compeer Callers make a weekly call to an individual waiting to be matched One-to-One.
Group Volunteers are civic, church, sorority/fraternity, or other groups who provide an activity or party for persons living in a group home setting. Both one-time and ongoing group volunteers are welcomed.
Compeer 1 to 1 matches result in respondents reporting: 83% improvement in feeling cared about. 78 % improvement in feeling understood. 76 % improvement in decreased loneliness. 74 % improvement in self-esteem.