Vinnies celebrates 10 years of Compeer matchmaking

The St Vincent de Paul Society is renewing a call for volunteers during Mental Health Week this week as it celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Compeer program for matchmaking friends with people living with mental health problems.

Compeer made its first match in Sydney in 1996 and now runs programs in several Sydney regions as well as in Melbourne, and will soon open in Albury in regional NSW.

"It was like I was a normal person again. A night out in the normal world, treated like a normal person," one Compeer friend said commenting on a night at the Compeer annual dinner.

"A commitment of just one hour a week for a minimum of one year is required to carry out simple social activities such as going for walk, having a coffee or going to the movies," a Vinnies statement says.

"The power and success of this internationally affiliated program is demonstrated by some of the friendships that have been formed over the past decade. One match made in 1996 continues to meet regularly to this day," the statement continues.

"On this special milestone anniversary, Compeer is making a call for volunteers, male and female, aged between 30 and 70 years of age to form a life changing friendship," it adds.

NSW Shadow Minister For Mental Health, Gladys Berejiklian, who is to host a 10th Anniversary celebration for volunteers and friends at Parliament House Sydney next week, also recognises the importance of social reintegration programs like Compeer.

"People with mental health problems often withdraw from or lose work, family and social ties. Vinnies Compeer program provides the necessary support for a reconnection with the community and the building of social confidence and self esteem. Friendship and support are powerful aids in recovery," Ms Berejiklian said in a statement.

In the past ten years, over 300 friendships have helped people with a mental illness to break through the isolation, reconnect with the community and make significant steps towards recovery. With the support of the Compeer program, people living with a mental illness can live happier, healthier lives.

"Compeer breaks down the stigma associated with mental illness and through friendship brings hope, joy and comfort to the lives of people so often plagued by loneliness and social isolation. The volunteers themselves also state that being part of the program has made a difference to their lives," the Vinnies statement says.

Compeer (St Vincents de Paul, Media Release, 9/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Society of St Vincent de Paul

Vinnies welcomes NSW Premier's commitment to mental health (CathNews, 19/5/06)

10 Oct 2006