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Table 3 Positive experiences of the volunteer befrienders

From: Characteristics, motivations and experiences of volunteer befrienders for people with mental illness: a systematic review and narrative synthesis

1.Satisfaction with the relationship with the befriendee
1.1.Spending nice time together
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “meeting each other’s families, dining in each other’s homes, celebrating holidays together.”
“He enjoys getting together. We enjoy each other, getting together and talking, and I’ve decided that that’s of value to me.”
1.2.Trusting each other
Mitchell & Pistrang, 2011 [18] “She seems to be able to talk to me about all sorts of things. Sometimes really personal things… it’s a confidential situation, it’s not going any further than us. So maybe that’s what gives her the freedom to talk.”
“While I’m talking to him I’m not constantly thinking of the roles that I’m the befriender and he is the befriendee, we’re two people having a chat.”
“I’m just myself and he’s just himself, we just happen to be doing this particular thing, in this particular relationship, in this particular way. .. It’s more important for us just to be ourselves.”
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “We’re there for each other.”
1.3. Wanting to continue the relationship as friends
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “If [the befriending scheme] ended, he and I would probably still be friends 10 years hence, still doing some stuff together”
“in this movement from ‘helper/helpee’ to true friends”
2. Good experience with the volunteering scheme
2.1.Access to support/supervision
Tombs et al. 2003 [17] “the most useful aspect being the provision of supervision by clinical psychologists and advice about writing application forms”
Mitchell & Pistrang, 2011 [18] “When she was cutting it was really difficult and I was really distressed about it, so I called [befriending scheme coordinator] to see how to handle it…so it was like dealing with it together. It’s not like I’m alone dealing with the situation.
2.2.Usefulness of sharing experiences with other volunteers
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “It’s so nice because other volunteers who’ve already gone through it and have found out what works have helped me a lot.”
3. Personal gains with the relationship
3.1. Feeling good to provide new experiences to the befriendee
Mitchell & Pistrang, 2011 [18] “to get out and visit places and do things that otherwise [befriendee] wouldn’t have done naturally on his own, and that’s an exposure to a whole load of different things…it’s opening that window of things out there.”
“about creating opportunities for [befriendee] to go where perhaps he wouldn’t have gone before in relationships.”
3.2. Filling their own free time
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “filling the gap created by retirement.”
3.3. Feeling rewarded for contributing to the befriendee’s recovery
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “No matter how much time, or lost sleep, or stress you feel the investment requires, the satisfaction of being intimately involved with another life in recovery is just extraordinarily self-enhancing, reinforcing.”
“I feel good about myself that I’ve been able to do something for him.”
Coe et al., 2013 [14] “But I remember this particular girl the first time I met her she just … I could tell by her eyes what pain she was in. She just had … she sort of glared at me. And now she does actually look happy again and there is that sparkle in her eyes.”
“It’s just really … I just found it really rewarding. I wanted to give something back to the community really and I feel that I have done that. Um. It’s kind of made me feel accepted in a way.”
3.4. Being supported by the befriendee
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “I like it that she’s been there even for me, when I needed someone to lean on, that I could talk to her.”
3.5. Learning/reflecting about themselves
McCorkle et al., 2009 [22] “required dealing with one’s own negative preconceptions about mental illness.”
Mitchell & Pistrang, 2011 [18] “…it’s part of that looking at whatever the situation is, from a lot of different perspectives…You look at it in a balanced type of way, rather than in one fixed way.”
“It makes me think about me, who I am…you do have to say to yourself, ‘Am I happy with where I am?’, and if there are things that are getting to me where is that layer occurring and you know, because I do become more conscious.”
“It helps you reassess some of the things that have happened to yourself, and how other people may have reacted or looked at it.”
3.6. Changing attitudes towards people with mental disorders
Mitchell & Pistrang, 2011 [18] “… It’s nice to sort of confirm that what you read in the papers isn’t representative of the mental health.”
4. Professional gains with the experience
4.1. Having contact with people with mental disorders
Mitchell & Pistrang, 2011 [18] “I don’t know anyone with a diagnosed mental disorder so I had no idea what someone like that would be like.”
4.2. Helping to clarify their career path
Tombs et al., 2003 [17] “it has also been useful in clarifying whether clinical psychology is the career.”
4.3. Helping to build the CV
Tombs et al., 2003 [17] [helped with the] demand for relevant voluntary experience whilst competition for assistants’ posts remains high and most posts require some previous client experience.”