A year of friendship and mental health support in Western Sydney

Twenty eight years since its original launch in Sydney, the Vinnies mental health support program, Compeer, is now celebrating it’s one year anniversary of being available from Mt Druitt through to Katoomba.

Compeer is a community-based program which aims to decrease social isolation among adults living with mental illness. It achieves this by matching adults living with mental illness to a caring volunteer to enjoy social outings together.

Since it began, the Compeer program has welcomed 57 participants in the Western Suburbs and engaged with various local mental health organisations.

Cassandra Masters, Compeer Area Coordinator for the region, recognises the importance of increasing community access to mental health suppport.

“Around one in five Australians will experience mental illness every year,[i]” she explains, “and despite improvements in mental health awareness, the associated stigma leaves many people isolated and lonely. The Compeer program has found that social support can lower internalised stigma and improve mental health recovery.”

“Many of the health professionals who recommend the Compeer Program to their clients say it addresses an important aspect of mental health recovery not typically offered in clinical settings – the opportunity for people to develop and experience a genuine and mutually rewarding friendship with someone.”.

Alice[ii] from the Lower Blue Mountains has been a volunteer partner with Molly[iii] since the original expansion of the program.

“With my friend, we actually connect on a personal level and are real friends,” says Alice. “It has been a wonderful experience and the mental illness doesn’t really have an effect on our friendship because we really connect.

“There are people around us, who are really very lonely, but this is what we can do in the community, we can chat and be together. I think if more people in the community spent time with people it will make the community much better. This experience has also made me a better person because I am now more sensitive to other people’s needs.”

For those considering joining the Compeer Program, Alice says: “Really have a go because it is not just you in this world and you are doing something for someone else, but you are doing something for yourself too. If you have the time and the capacity just do it, because many people are waiting for a friend and need this companionship.”

If you would like to find out more about the Compeer Program visit www.Compeer.org.au


[i] As reported by EPIC Assist 2016

[ii] Not their real name

[iii] Not their real name