This study examined the evidence from controlled studies for the effectiveness of consumer-led mental health services. Following an extensive search of material published in English from 1980, predefined inclusion criteria were systematically applied to research articles that compared a consumer-led mental health service to a traditional mental health service. A total of 29 eligible studies were appraised; all of them were conducted in high-income countries. Overall consumer-led services reported equally positive outcomes for their clients as traditional services, particularly for practical outcomes such as employment or living arrangements, and in reducing hospitalizations and thus the cost of services. Involving consumers in service delivery appears to provide employment opportunities and be beneficial overall for the consumer-staff members and the service. Despite growing evidence of effectiveness, barriers such as underfunding continue to limit the use and evaluation of consumer-led services. Future studies need to adopt more uniform definitions and prioritize the inclusion of recovery oriented outcome measures.
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