Neighbors as Distal Support for Individuals With Serious Mental Illnesses

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American Journal of Orthopsychiatry

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Social networks are regarded as an asset to community integration. While family and friends provide important sources of support, familiar strangers like neighbors can facilitate support through anonymous, but meaningful interactions. Among individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMI), these interactions can help to compensate for increased social isolation and smaller networks of peers. This study explores whether neighbors can play a unique role in decreasing loneliness and bolstering a sense of community for individuals with SMI. Participants in this study were drawn from 2 samples: (a) 232 individuals with SMI receiving services at outpatient community mental health centers throughout the United States; and (b) 300 adults recruited from the Truven Health Analytics’ PULSE survey. Independent-samples t tests were performed to compare neighbor relationships between individuals with and without SMI. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine associations between neighbor relationships, sense of community, and loneliness. As hypothesized, individuals with SMI reported weaker relationships with their neighbors, as well as higher levels of loneliness and lower levels of community connectedness compared to individuals without SMI. For participants in both groups, the quality of neighbor relationships was significantly associated with their loneliness and sense of community regardless of how many neighbors they reported feeling close to. Participants with SMI indicated their sense of community and experiences of loneliness were associated with their relationships with their neighbors, no matter the quantity. Providers might capitalize on the utility of neighbors by expanding social and support networks of clients with SMI. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)


© 2020 American Psychological Association.

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