Motivations and experiences of volunteers and patients in mental health befriending: a thematic analysis.
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BACKGROUND: Volunteers frequently participate in befriending schemes with people with mental illness. This study aimed to explore the motivations and experiences of volunteer befrienders engaging in these schemes in addition to the experiences of befriending recipients. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 38 volunteers and 23 befriending recipients, across 12 mental health befriending schemes in the UK, and analysed using Thematic Analysis. Volunteers highlighted their motivations for wanting to befriend. Individuals discussed their experiences, including the benefits and any challenges. RESULTS: Analysis of interviews revealed the motivations for individuals to volunteer in mental health care, the experiences of both volunteers and recipients of befriending, as well as how complex the role of befriender is. The three overarching themes were (1) Personal growth & altruism as motivations for volunteering, (2) Impact of "doing things" versus "being there" and (3) Negotiating between professional role and friendship. CONCLUSIONS: A number of personal and altruistic factors motivate individuals to volunteer in mental health care. The experiences of both volunteers and befriendees convey important factors affecting these relationships. In particular, the nuance of the befriending role and the ways in which it can impact the lives of recipients. Indeed, such factors need to be considered when formulating these befriending schemes.