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


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Young, Jim 1991 , 'A research evaluation of GROW, a mutual help mental health organisation', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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
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
The implications of the conclusions for mental health services are
discussed and suggestions for further research explored.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Young, Jim
Keywords: GROW (Organization : Australia), Mentally ill, Self-help groups
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D., Clin. Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 1992. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 182-194)

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