A review of social participation interventions for people with mental health problems

Martin Paul Webber, Meredith Leah Fendt-Newlin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: The association between social networks and improved mental and physical health is well documented in the literature, but mental health services rarely routinely intervene to improve an individual’s social network. This review summarises social participation intervention models to illustrate different approaches which practitioners use, highlight gaps in the evidence base and suggest future directions for research.
Methods: A systematic search of electronic databases was conducted and social participation interventions were grouped into six categories using a modified narrative synthesis approach.
Results: 19 interventions from 14 countries were identified, six of which were evaluated using a randomised controlled trial. They were grouped together as: individual social skills training; group skills training; supported community engagement; group-based community activities; employment interventions and peer support interventions. Social network gains appear strongest for supported community engagement interventions but, overall, evidence was limited.
Conclusions: The small number of heterogeneous studies included in this review, which were not quality appraised, tentatively suggest that social participation interventions may increase individuals’ social networks. Future research needs to use experimental designs with sufficient samples and follow-up periods longer than twelve months to enable us to make firm recommendations for mental health policy or practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-380
Number of pages12
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number4
Early online date12 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017


  • Social networks, Social isolation, Interpersonal relationships, Psychosocial intervention, Review

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