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Phone Calls Lend Vital Support to Moms of Mentally Ill Children

Mothers of mentally ill children often don't have time to attend support groups or can't afford the costs for their own counseling.//

But emotional support for these mothers may be just a phone call away.

A study by a University of South Carolina College of Nursing researcher shows that regular phone calls from psychiatric nurses are a lifeline for mothers who often are isolated because of their child’s illness and overwhelmed by the mental healthcare system.

In the cases of these mothers, their child's mental illness has resulted in their isolation and disconnection from previous support systems, including family, friends, work and even church, says Dr. Kathleen Scharer, a USC College of Nursing researcher who will present her preliminary findings July 20 in Montreal at the International Nursing Research Congress Focusing on Evidence-Based Practice.

Mothers are desperate for help, but often can't find it, she said.

The preliminary data show that emotional and informational support for these mothers is needed. Because of the rural nature of South Carolina and many other states, in-person support groups aren't a viable option for many mothers, she said.

'This study indicates that social support through telephone calls does help. It is a relatively easy intervention program that could be set up to help mothers,' Scharer said.

Scharer's research on the effectiveness of phone calls for emotional support is part of a larger study, Social Support for Mothers of Mentally Ill Children, funded by a grant of nearly $1 million from the National Institute of Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health. That study is one of the first in the nation to examine social support systems, including a web-based program in which mothers and a psychiatric nurse communicate by e-mail.

Scharer examined data from 63 phone conversations of 16 of the 46 mothers who are in the initial stud
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