Technology and opportunity: People with serious mental illness and social connection

Lisa Townsend, Allison Zippay, Kyle Caler, Brad Forenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Little information exists regarding how individuals with serious mental illness use technology and whether this usage facilitates social connections. This study contributes to filling this knowledge gap by examining ways in which a sample of persons with serious mental illness use cell phones and the Internet. Methods: Interviews with 50 consumers living in supported housing were asked about their use of cell phones and computers and their perceptions of social connections. Results: Cell phones and computers allowed greater linkage with social, medical, mental health, and employment resources. Nearly all obtained phones through publicly funded programs. “Running out of minutes” was common and associated with disrupted communication and safety concerns. Few people owned computers, resulting in restricted access. Conclusion: Policy makers should consider providing free or discounted hardware, subsidizing unlimited plans, and promoting computer literacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-393
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Cellular phones
  • Communication
  • Community participation
  • Serious mental disorders
  • Supported housing


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