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Keywords:

  • family burden;
  • outcome;
  • psychoeducation;
  • relatives

Objective:  This study examines 6-month follow-up data from participants in a randomized trial of a peer-driven 12-session family support and education program, called family-to-family (FTF) and offered by the US National Alliance on Mental Illness, to determine whether improvements in distress, family functioning, coping and empowerment were sustained.

Method:  Individuals randomized to the FTF condition were assessed after program completion and then 3 months later on measures of distress, family functioning, coping, and empowerment. We used a multilevel regression model (sas proc mixed) to test for significant changes over time (baseline, 3 and 9 months).

Results:  All significant benefits that FTF participants gained between baseline and immediately post-FTF were sustained at 9 months including reduced anxiety, improved family problem-solving, increased positive coping, and increased knowledge. Greater class attendance was associated with larger increases in empowerment and reductions in depression and displeasure with ill relative.

Conclusion:  Evidence suggests that benefits of the FTF program were sustained for at least 6 months without any additional boosters or supports. Peer-based programs may produce sustained benefits for individuals seeking help in addressing challenges and stresses related to having a family member with a mental illness.