A student-facilitated community-based support group initiative for mental health care users in a primary health care setting
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South African Mental Health Care (MHC) legislation advocates for supportive rehabilitative services in Primary Health Care (PHC) settings. PHC settings are often understaffed and MHC nurses in these settings overburdened with high patient loads. Alternative cost-effective psycho-social intervention strategies must be explored to supplement the overstrained MHC sector to meet the rehabilitative and supportive needs of
service users in community settings. Using a social constructionist epistemology, this study aimed to highlight the value of a community-based support group for MHC users at a Tshwane District Community Health Centre. This was done by exploring the meaning group members attached to the group. The intervention was a collaborative partnership between a local University Psychology Department and the Department of Health, Tshwane District, utilising post-graduate psychology students as group facilitators. Qualitative research methods were applied. Data were collected using semistructured interviews and a collage-making and storytelling method. Thematic analysis highlighted the main themes representing the meaning the five participants ascribed to the group. The findings suggest that the group offered the participants a sense of belonging and a means of social and emotional support. The group also created opportunity for learning, encouraged mental and physical mobilisation and stimulation, and served as an additional link to professional services. The findings suggest that student-facilitated support groups could offer a viable supplement for offering support to service users in PHC settings. The group assisted MHC users to cope with symptoms, social integration, and participating in meaningful activities as part of rehabilitation services.