University of Chicago researchers receive $2.5 million to evaluate mental health self-help program

February 3, 1999

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded a $2.5 million grant to a consortium of researchers based at the University of Chicago Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Tinley Park, Illinois, to evaluate the impact of GROW, a self- and mutual-support program for patients with mental illness. Used in combination with traditional rehabilitation efforts, GROW is designed to increase independence for patients with mental illness and to help them regain control over their lives.

The study will follow 180 patients with illnesses, such as schizophrenia and manic depression, for four years. About half of the patients will receive standard rehabilitation services, and the rest will combine those services with participation in the GROW program.

The researchers will study whether adding the GROW program to standard therapy can make patients more independent, better able to work and live on their own, and enjoy life more. The researchers will also try to learn why some patients are able to stay with the program and why others leave.

"Previous studies have suggested that programs like GROW can reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients with mental illness,'' said Patrick Corrigan, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago and director of the study.

"So often, patients with mental illness have very little control over their own lives. We want to determine whether programs like this, with patients learning to help each other, can bring back some independence and self reliance to their personal and social lives,'' added Corrigan, who is also director of the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. ``It puts mental health services back into the hands of the consumers.''

The GROW program was developed in Australia more than 40 years ago. There are now more than 600 groups worldwide, including 113 in Illinois. The program brings mentally ill patients together to support each other, to teach each other ways to cope with everyday problems, and to build self esteem through helping others with similar problems.

Besides the Tinley Park facility, the consortium includes rehabilitation teams from Rockford, Illinois and Champaign, Illinois. Seven other similar studies are currently getting underway in other states.

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