Social isolation and inadequate information are significant barriers to recovery for persons with serious mental disorders (SMI), particularly for those living in rural areas. People with SMI often lack but desire self-help skills and resources, which they view as essential to their recovery.
The aims of this research are: (1) to determine whether adults with SMI living in rural communities can use and benefit from electronic mail and access to the Internet with a modest investment of time and resources in assistance; and, (2) to assess their use of computers to access service providers, peers, support groups, and other relevant sources of Internet information. 90 Hispanic, Indian, non-Hispanic White persons with SMI served by Valencia Counseling Services in rural New Mexico will be randomly assigned to computer-use, personal-journal-use, or treatment-as-usual groups, which will be matched for diagnosis. Hypotheses include: (1) Most persons with SMI will use the computer and will perceive benefit from use and report greater satisfaction and quality of life; (2) those provided with computers for one year will require less crisis intervention and will have more adherence with medication treatment during the study year than during the preceding year and compared to the other 2 groups; and, (3) (an exploratory hypothesis for planning the next study) the ability to use a computer effectively and degree of benefit realized will be better for those with non-psychotic diagnoses, no co-morbid substance abuse, less sever symptoms, less functional impairment, and greater education. The Hopkins Health Opinion Questionnaire recently developed at John Hopkins University will be used to assess social function, quality of life, genera health, symptoms, treatment, and employment at the beginning and end of the 12 month intervention. A parallel instrument will assess provider staff views of clients, and additional items will assess use of medication and crisis services. A brief instrument will measure family members observations of computer use and participant behavior. Medical records will be used to check client and provider perceptions. Data on computer use and journal activity will be collected monthly, and clients will describe how they used the computer or journal and how they perceive its effect on various dimensions.