Abstract: Use of Informal Non-Structured Intervention in a Community-Based Mental Health Setting: Findings from Multiple Perspectives (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Use of Informal Non-Structured Intervention in a Community-Based Mental Health Setting: Findings from Multiple Perspectives

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Daniel W.L. Lai, PhD, Chair Professor & Dean, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Vincent Lee, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Yongxin Ruan, MSW, Doctoral Student, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Background: This is a case study of an integrated community centre for mental wellness in Hong Kong. In addition to formal services, the Centre adopts a non-structured intervention approach for service users through informal engagement of staff members. Service users can form informal peer groups and initiate social activities by themselves. This study aims to understand the impact of informal and non-structured intervention approaches in supporting persons with depression in recovery. It considers these impacts from various perspectives, including participants in non-structured informal intervention activities, their carers and family members, other service users who were not enrolled in these intervention activities, and staff members.

Methods: Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted in both individual and focus group formats. Interviewees were identified using a purposive sampling approach, and included 24 participants in informal and non-structured intervention activities, three carers or family members of these service users, 14 service users never enrolled in non-structured intervention activities, and five staff members. Data were analyzed by examining codes and themes emerging from interviews, across and within groups.

Findings: The non-structured informal intervention approach was found to contribute to service users’ recovery in five main aspects. Firstly, the intervention activities nurtured connectedness between participants by expanding their social networks and strengthening their family networks. Secondly, learning new skills and encouragement from peers generated positive views among participants towards themselves and towards recovery, which supported the development of optimism and hope. Thirdly, the intervention activities helped to rebuild participants’ identities through a sense of self-worth gained from completing tasks and a feeling of being accepted by peers, which lessened the stigma associated with mental illness. Fourthly, participants had the chance to practice various essential skills, from which they could find new roles in life through volunteer activities. Finally, participants were empowered by focusing on strengths, taking up more responsibilities in their life, and enjoying a supportive atmosphere.

Conclusion: The findings showed various benefits of non-structured informal interventions for participants’ recovery. However, when using this intervention in services for clients recovering from mental illness, service providers should continue to act as mentors in each informal and non-structured group, to guide the operation of these groups and assist participants to develop clear objectives and targets. Moreover, family and social functioning should be a focus of informal and non-structured intervention, as enhancing family relationships is beneficial for participants’ mental recovery.