Evaluation of the National Alliance on Mental Illness peer-to-peer educational program: A pilot study to assess the potential to improve well-being and quality of life

Steven Kent Lawrence, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organizations. Volunteers, trained by NAMI, provide peer-led programs throughout communities around the United States and internationally. These programs are free and use peer instructors or mentors to provide the unique perspective of education from the lived experience. One of NAMI’s education classes is the Peer-to-Peer Education course (PP). NAMI’s PP is a recovery-focused educational program for adults. The course provides critical information and strategies related to living and coping with mental illness and promotes growth, healing and recovery among the participants of the program. The ten week course is designed for individuals 18 years of age and older living with mental illness (MI) and is taught by a peer instructor team, living in recovery from mental illness themselves, trained by NAMI to deliver the course. Using a comprehensive self-administered questionnaire this pilot study examined whether six self-reported knowledge, psychological well-being and quality of life constructs, measured prior to the courses (T1), changed following completion of the NAMI PP courses (T2) and, if so, whether these changes were sustainable over a period of three months following completion of the courses (T3). This pilot program was a convenience sample including all consenting participants in the PP programs scheduled from March 2015 until March 2016 in Houston, TX. Each eligible participant completed a baseline (T1), course completion (T2) and three-month follow-up (T3) questionnaire, if available at follow-up. Our data demonstrates that the MI participants’ raw means, of all but a single measured sub-construct, benefited from the completion of the PP course. Eight of the 13 constructs and their sub-constructs’ means further benefited from T2 to T3. All of the measured constructs and sub-constructs (scores) raw mean scores had retained their beneficial change or further benefited from T1 to T3. In a series of paired samples t-tests, six of the mean differences were significant at the .05 level. Independent t-tests indicated that none of the groups were significantly different from each other based upon whether they completed the course. While difficult to achieve the desired sample sizes, due to poor enrollment and loss to follow-up, this study has further advanced the knowledge base for peer-led education by contributing statistical evidence indicating the positive effects of the NAMI PP course on persons suffering from mental illness. More rigorous evaluations in the future using random selection and control groups and a larger post course time period are needed.

Subject Area

Mental health

Recommended Citation

Lawrence, Steven Kent, "Evaluation of the National Alliance on Mental Illness peer-to-peer educational program: A pilot study to assess the potential to improve well-being and quality of life" (2016). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10179086.