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Volunteering in Mental Health Care for People with Psychosis (VOLUME)


Numerous volunteers give their time to support people with mental health difficulties, many of whom are involved through befriending schemes which aim to build relationships between volunteers and patients.

Evidence indicates that one-to-one volunteer input has benefits for both volunteers and patients. However, more research is required in order to strengthen and increase the effectiveness of mental health volunteering schemes across England, particularly on:

  • the most effective ways to train, recruit and support volunteers
  • what types of activities are most beneficial to patients.

In this context, the National Institute for Health Research has funded research led by the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health (part of the Blizzard Institute which is based in the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry). IVR is contributing knowledge around volunteering research and good practice, helping to identify relevant literature and case studies as well as undertaking analysis and the dissemination of findings.


To explore the value of volunteering schemes targeted towards people who have mental health difficulties, and to promote awareness of current volunteering options across England.


The research will run for four years, starting in September 2013, and will involve:

  • Identification of current mental health volunteering schemes and provision of this information about them on a project website.
  • A literature review.
  • Case studies of services, identify good practice in recruiting, selecting, training, supervising, and managing volunteers
    • This stage will also explore the experiences of volunteers and patients who currently provide or receive one-to-one volunteer input over a period of at least six months and subsequently design a volunteering scheme that reflects good practice.
  • An exploratory trial, comparing outcomes of patients who receive befriending with those who do not.
  • Dissemination of the findings and good practice to support the setting up of NHS volunteering schemes, as well as improve existing ones.

Research outputs

We are currently seeking organisations who are interested in taking part in the research as case studies.


The lead contact for this project is Nick Ockenden.

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