The time following discharge from psychiatric hospitalisation is a high risk period. Rates of hospital readmission are high and there is increased risk for homelessness and suicide. Transitional and post-discharge support programs have demonstrated positive results in terms of enhanced wellbeing, improved connection with community-based services and, in some cases, reductions in hospital re-admission. This paper reports on the outcomes of a peer-delivered post-discharge support program.
The program involved peer workers (individuals with their own lived experience of mental illness and recovery) providing individualised practical and emotional support to individuals for six to eight weeks following discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. Outcomes measures included self-reported mental health recovery, personal wellness and self-reported re-admission rates. Process and satisfaction measures were also collected and semi-structured follow-up interviews were completed with consenting participants.
The program provided support for a total of 64 individuals, 38 of whom consented to participate in the evaluation. Participants reported improvements in terms of functional and clinical recovery and in the areas of intellectual, social and psychological wellness. Participants self-report of hospital readmissions suggested that there was a reduction in hospital bed days following engagement with the program. Themes from the follow up interviews included: Easing the transition to the “real world”; Practical and individualised support; Someone to talk to; Positive qualities of the worker , W orkers’ lived experience was a positive thing, and It wasn’t long enough.
Overall, evaluation data suggest that the program supported positive outcomes for participants in terms of recovery, wellbeing and hospital avoidance. Participant feedback suggested that the use of support workers with their own lived experience of mental illness was a particularly powerful aspect of the program.