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A research evaluation of GROW, a mutual help mental health organisation

posted on 2023-05-27, 12:40 authored by Young, Jim
GROW is a mutual help organisation founded in Sydney, Australia, in 1957 by former patients of mental hospitals as a direct response to their own experienced needs after they had been discharged from hospital. Initially established to assist psychiatric patients' rehabilitation into the community, the organisation soon broadened its aims to help members deal with any problems and to fill a preventative and educative role in the area of mental health so that many of its members now have never been diagnosed as mentally ill. The organisation adopted a pattern of meeting weekly and evolved a literature centred on the record of members' successful strategies. Government and private funding were attracted and by 1985 GROW was established in every state and territory in Australia and in New Zealand, Ireland, the United States and Canada. In Australia public funding was by then almost $1.5m per annum. Although this provided de facto recognition of GROW as a mental health service, because of its complexity no attempt had been made to measure the effectiveness of the organisation. With added competition for funding for community based care of the mentally ill, pressure mounted for an objective evaluation. This study examines, in three phases, GROW throughout Australia at the group and individual level. The first phase is a national survey to identify the personal and demographic characteristics of GROW attenders, their reasons for attending, their use of medication and professional resources and their perception of the efficacy of the organisation. The second phase, with a sample of groups chosen to be representative of the national profile in the light of the first phase, examines the group climate and processes seen to be operating in the meetings. The pattern of member attendance is also determined. The third phase is a longitudinal study in which a sample of GROW members, again representative of the national profile, are interviewed on five occasions over at least twelve months to determine changes, if any, coincident with GROW attendance. Ninety-one percent of GROW attenders nationwide responded to the phase one questionnaire. Two-thirds of members were female, approximately 65% were aged between 30 and 60 years, many reported limited social networks and felt that GROW contacts helped alleviate this situation. Most perceived GROW as helpful and they reported a decreased use of medication and professional help. Cluster analysis revealed a number of subtypes of GROW attenders: those with psychological/psychiatric symptoms; those with diminished social networks; those who had experienced traumatic life events; and those wanting to help others. Phase two concluded that GROW groups are strongly cohesive with a firm leadership and a structured meeting pattern resistant to change. Groups encourage personal growth and personal change in a climate that avoids the expression of negative feelings and confrontation. Over a 13 week period, nearly one third of a representative sample attended one meeting only, one third attended at least half the meetings and 9.4% attended all the weekly meetings. The average attendance at each group was between five and six members. Phase 3 involved four interviews over six months and one follow-up interview at least six months later with 102 GROW members. Ninety four percent of possible interviews were completed and contributed to the results. The study concluded that attendance at GROW was related to a perceived improvement in many aspects of members' lives, improved quality of friendships and a decrease in symptomatology. Comparison with a non-equivalent control sample and comparison between regular and irregular GROW attenders strengthened this conclusion. The implications of the conclusions for mental health services are discussed and suggestions for further research explored.


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Copyright 1991 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D., Clin. Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 1992. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 182-194)

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