The Role of Social Support and Ego Network Characteristics on Quality of Life

Implications for Persons Involved with Mental Health Courts


  • David C. Kondrat Indiana University School of Social Work
  • W. Patrick Sullivan Indiana University
  • Kelli E. Canada University of Missouri School of Social Work
  • Jeremiah W. Jaggers University of Utah College of Social Work



mental illness, mental health courts, ego network


Mental health courts offer alternatives to incarceration for persons with severe mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system. These courts have the dual function of ensuring treatment for persons involved in the court as well as ensuring the safety of the public. Persons with severe mental illness who are involved in mental health courts rely on others for support, such as family members. Others may buttress the participant from engaging in criminal activities and provide for needs of the participant. The supportiveness as well as the composition of one’s network members may play a role in the success of mental health court participants, such as successfully completing the mental health court program and avoiding incarceration. Little research has explored how social support impacts mental health court participants. We explored how the composition and sense of support of network members were associated with mental health court participants’ quality of life. We regressed quality of life on social support and network characteristics of 80 participants in two mental health courts. Findings suggest that perceived support is positively associated with quality of life, and the proportion of family in one’s network was negatively related to quality of life. Findings suggest that persons involved in mental health courts need supportive others in their social networks in addition to family. More research is needed to explore the reasons having a higher proportion of family members in one’s network is associated with lower quality of life. Practitioners need to pay attention to and leverage mental health court participants’ social networks to help improve their quality of life.


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