Peer Support: Helping Others, Healing Yourself

When you think about peer support, what comes to mind?

For many, peer support means offering assistance and advice to friends and family members. However, peer support can also refer to a professional relationship in which someone with first-hand experience with a particular issue provides help and guidance to others facing similar challenges.

There are many different types of peer support, but all share a common goal: to help individuals cope with difficult situations and make positive life changes.

What is Peer Support?

Peer support is a collaborative relationship between two people who share similar experiences and can provide emotional and practical guidance to one another. The term “peer” refers to someone equal in status rather than someone superior or inferior.

In the context of mental health, peer support typically refers to a professional relationship between a mental health practitioner and a person with lived experience of mental illness. The goal of peer support is to help the individual cope with their challenges and make positive changes in their life.

Peer support can take many different forms, but all relationships share certain core elements:

  • equality: peers are equals who share similar experiences and can offer emotional and practical guidance to one another
  • trust: the relationship is based on trust and mutual respect
  • collaboration: peers work together to identify goals and plan for progress
  • empathy: peers offer understanding, compassion, and hope to one another

Who Can Benefit from Peer Support?

Anyone struggling with a mental health issue can benefit from peer support. However, peer support is particularly well-suited for people who are:

– reluctant to seek professional help

– anxious about starting treatment

– struggling to stick with treatment

– feeling isolated or alone in their experience

two women sitting beside table and talking

What Are the Benefits of Peer Support?

Peer support is an effective intervention for various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse. Research has also shown that peer support can:

– improve mental health symptoms

– increase social support

– reduce hospitalisation rates

– improve treatment adherence

– decrease emergency department visits

What Should I Expect from a Peer Supporter?

When you meet with a peer supporter, they will likely ask about your experiences and challenges. They will also ask about your goals for treatment and what you hope to achieve from the relationship.

It’s important to remember that peer support is not a substitute for professional mental health care. Call your local emergency services if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or have thoughts of harming yourself or others.

If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your mental health, peer support can be a helpful resource. However, finding a peer supporter who is a good fit for you and your needs is essential. Take your time finding someone you feel comfortable with and who you think can help you achieve your goals.

Is peer support right for me?

Peer support can be an effective intervention for various mental health issues, but it may not be suitable for everyone. Here are some factors to consider when deciding if peer support is right for you:

– Are you struggling with a mental health issue?

Peer support may be a helpful intervention if you’re struggling with a mental health issue.

– Are you reluctant to seek professional help?

If you’re reluctant to seek professional help, peer support may be a good option. Peer support can provide guidance and support without the stigma of seeking professional help.

– Do you have a support system in place?

If you have a support system, peer support may not be necessary. However, peer support may be a good option if you’re struggling to find social support.

– Are you ready to make positive changes in your life?

Peer support can help you make positive changes in your life, but you need to be ready and willing to make those changes. If you’re unsure if you’re prepared to make changes, peer support may not suit you.

Methods of peer support.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to peer support, there are some standard methods that peer supporters use to provide support. These methods include:

– Listening: Peer supporters can provide a nonjudgmental ear to listen to your experiences and challenges.

– Reflecting: Peer supporters can help you to see your experiences and challenges in a new light.

– Validating: Peer supporters can help you to feel seen and understood.

– Offering guidance: Peer supporters can offer advice and guidance based on their own experiences.

– Providing resources: Peer supporters can provide information and resources that may be helpful to you.

– Holding you accountable: Peer supporters can help you to stay on track with your goals by holding you accountable.

– Celebrating your successes: Peer supporters can help you to celebrate your successes and progress.

Different types of peer support

There are different types of peer support, each with its benefits. However, some common types of peer support include:

– Support groups allow people to share their experiences and challenges with others going through similar things.

– Online peer support: Online peer support can provide 24/7 access to support and resources.

– Individual peer support: Individual peer support can provide one-on-one support and guidance.

– Family peer support: Family peer support can provide support and resources to families who have a loved one with a mental health issue.

– Peer mentorship: Peer mentorship programs pair people with mentors who have experience with mental health issues.

– Consumer-operated services: Consumer-operated services are run by people with lived experience of mental illness. These services can provide support, resources, and advocacy.

How to find a peer supporter?

person using black laptop computer

If you’re interested in finding a peer supporter, there are a few things to remember. Here are some tips for finding a peer supporter:

– Ask your doctor or mental health professional for recommendations.

– Search online for peer support groups in your area.

– Ask family and friends if they know of any peer support groups or services.

– Check with your insurance provider to see if they cover any peer support services.

– Reach out to your local mental health association or other mental health organisations for referrals.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a peer-led support group programme called “Connection” that is available in communities across the United States. If you’re unsure where to start, a good place to begin your search is the National Peer Support Directory, which lists peer support services in the United States and Canada.

The Mental Health Foundation provides a directory of peer support groups in the United Kingdom.

What If I Can’t Find a Peer Supporter?

If you are seeking support from a peer and are having trouble finding someone, you can do a few things. One is to seek out online communities of people who have similar experiences to yours.

Another option is to contact a national or local helpline; these organisations can often put you in touch with a peer supporter in your area. Finally, you can ask your doctor or mental health professional if they know of any peer supporters in your community.

Remember, there is no shame in seeking out support, and there are many people who want to help. If you keep looking, you will eventually find the right person for you.

Final Thoughts

Peer support is a type of help based on mutual respect and understanding. If you’re struggling with a mental health issue, peer support can be an effective way to get the guidance and assistance you need.

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