‘What you are going through right now will be someone else’s survival gear‘ this phrase is the basis of peer support.
What is peer support?
Peer support involves the provision of support & services to persons with mental illness by individuals who have a current/ past experience of mental health-related problems. Peer support is based on the idea that a person who has experienced a mental health problem is better placed to empathize and understand the difficulties and barriers to recovery of another. No two peer support groups are the same – each is as unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint.
Role of peer support
Peer groups can play many roles in support for people living with psychiatric disorders and/or in addiction recovery. They are capable of facilitating education and work as a bridge linking people to services as they transition from hospitals or jails into the community.
Peers also work one-on-one as role models, mentors, coaches, and advocates and support people in developing psychiatric advanced directions and creating Wellness Recovery Action Plans. Many peers support workers have additional training and certification that demonstrates their skills and knowledge. Combined with their lived experience and ability to engage and connect with consumers, peer supporters are a dynamic and growing group that continues to transform lives and systems.
Peer support is valuable not only for the person receiving services but also for behavioral health professionals and the systems in which they work. Peer workers educate their colleagues and advance the field by sharing their perspectives and experience to increase understanding of how practices and policies may be improved to promote wellness and resiliency.
Peer support builds confidence and hope for healing
One study shows that people with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychoses value the sense of group belonging that comes from sharing personal stories. The mutual exchange of strategies to cope with the everyday challenges of living with a mental illness is an important aspect of the peer-to-peer community. Peer support can also play a role in improving access to mental health support and services and thus reduce the treatment gap.
They ensure a comforting feeling of ‘this is normal‘ & ‘we are going to get through this‘ is provided by a good peer support group that helps a large section of survivors in their recovery journey. It is not an alternative to professional help but it is something that aids it.