Bunny receives community service award

The Compeer Story

In 1965, our founder, Bernice Skirboll, was in a near-fatal auto accident that left her hospitalized for 2 months. Over the course of her recuperation, friends and loved ones were an incredible source of support, and she realized that they were instrumental in her return to health. She also realized that not everyone has the support that she was so fortunate to have. From this experience, she was inspired to make a difference with her life by creating Compeer. Started in 1973, with just 12 volunteers, Compeer now has 2,000 volunteers in 40 locations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. We have grown tremendously over the years, but our purpose has remained the same: to help bring the healing power of friendship to support those living with mental health challenges.

Our Purpose & Values


We strive to empower communities worldwide to implement the Compeer model of nonclinical social engagement programs, fostering mental wellbeing through meaningful connections.


These value statements reflect our organization’s dedication to supporting mental wellbeing and raising mental health awareness, while creating an inclusive environment where individuals can discover support, empathy, and the tools for enhancing their mental wellness.

Compassion: We foster a culture of compassion, by offering empathy and support without judgement.

Opportunity: We extend our reach to a broader population by establishing new affiliates and expanding capacity of existing programs.

Mental Wellbeing: We champion mental wellbeing, empowering affiliates to raise awareness and dismantle stigmas surrounding mental health.

Peer Affiliate Support: We facilitate connections between affiliates for a network of support to ensure successful implementation of the Compeer model providing friendship through volunteerism, as well as social engagement programs.

Equity and Belonging: We celebrate diversity and embrace inclusivity, recognizing the universal impact of mental health on individuals from all walks of life.

Empowerment: We provide the resources and foundation for affiliates to make a positive and sustainable impact on mental health within their communities.

Relationships: We foster growth and resilience through consultation, operational guidance, training, and various other opportunities to affiliates, all in the pursuit of promoting the mental wellbeing of others.

Our Proven Model

colorful hands in a circle
Compeer has a 50-year history of effectively addressing the escalating global mental health crisis. This crisis is characterized by various factors, including social isolation, pervasive stigma surrounding mental health, discrimination, and limited accessibility to supportive resources. People facing mental health challenges often experience loneliness, struggle to seek help due to fear of judgment, and lack accessible support systems. 
Compeer bridges these gaps by fostering genuine friendships, normalizing mental health conversations, combating stigmas, and providing non-clinical support through its evidence-based model. Our goal is to empower individuals, increase social engagement, and significantly enhance mental wellbeing. This is achieved through our network of dedicated employees, vigilant partner organizations, and caring community volunteers.
promoting mental wellness
through meaningful friendship
promoting mental health

Key Milestones


Mental Health Association in Rochester, NY establishes the Adopt-A-Patient program to enable formerly institutionalized patients to live successfully in the community. 


Bernice Skirboll is hired as Executive Director and develops Adopt-A-Patient into a community-based mental health support program. 


 Adopt-A-Patient becomes Compeer, a word meaning  ‘companion’ and ‘peer’. 


The National Institute of Mental Health selects Compeer as a national model and provides funding  to encourage replication throughout the nation. 

Compeer receives the Presidential Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human  Services. 

Compeer is featured on Good Morning America. 


The first Compeer National Conference, funded by a NIMH grant, is held and results in the startup  of 18 affiliates. 


President Reagan gives Compeer a Presidential Volunteer Action Award Citation.


Compeer Montreal becomes the first Canadian affiliate. 

recruitment campaign


President George Bush presents the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to Compeer. 


NBC Nightly News reports on Compeer in a special feature segment. 


Newsweek runs a Special Report on Compeer titled “The Power of Friendship”. 

Compeer establishes its first program in Europe, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. 


Compeer establishes its first affiliate in Oceania, in Sydney, Australia. 


Bernice Skirboll presents the Compeer model at the first Conference on Mental Health held at the White House in Washington, DC. 


Compeer regional representatives develop a list of best practices to serve as benchmarks for future program development.  


Bernice Skirboll presents the Compeer program at the World Federation on Mental Health Conference in Melbourne, Australia. 

fishing together at the river


An American Psychological Association task force highlights the Compeer Model as a best practices model for recovery for people with serious mental illness. 


Compeer: Recovery Through the Healing Power of Friends  by Bernice Skirboll is published, showcasing the impact of Compeer affiliates worldwide. 


Compeer Sydney receives the National Australia Bank Volunteer Award, a national recognition for best practices in volunteering. 


Boston University publishes the results of a 7-year research study on the efficacy of adult Compeer relationships finding that participants receive numerous  benefits and that there are minimal drawbacks to the program. 

Compeer youth programs in Kansas are named Gold Star programs by Kansas Mentors. This award is given to mentoring partners who maintain standards that ensure a high-quality mentoring experience. 


Compeer begins pilot CompeerCORPS program to serve vets living with mental illness. 


Compeer for Seniors, an older adult service of Compeer Greater Buffalo, wins the 2012 Eli Lilly Reintegration Award for Social Support.


The Award-winning Compeer Model is included in the SAMHSA  

National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). 


Compeer International and Compeer Buffalo merge. Buffalo, NY is now the headquarters of Compeer International.


Compeer International establishes its first affiliate in England through a partnership with Jewish Alliance on Mental Illness. 


Compeer International is awarded a $1.8M grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, supporting 12 affiliates. 


Compeer International awarded a $500,000 grant from AMERICORPS VISTA, supporting 12 locations. 

Compeer International launched a new logo and brand guidelines.


Compeer International is awarded a $1.2M grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, supporting 10 affiliates. 


Celebrating Compeer’s 50th anniversary!