Peer Support refers to support for others from a person who has knowledge, from their own experiences, of a particular condition. People with a common illness are able to share their knowledge, empathise with others and offer beneficial insights.
Peer support complements formal primary care services, working with professional health care providers in supporting people.
Peer support services have been found to be more successful than professionally trained staff at promoting hope and the possibility of recovery. (1)
At CAN, Peer Support workers draw from their own personal experience of mental illness to assist other mental health consumers in their daily lives. We provide this assistance to mental health consumers through our Hospital to Home service.
CAN’s Peer Support services take many forms : assisting people as they discharge from hospital, visiting consumers in their homes, taking consumers shopping or to medical appointments, supporting consumers to develop a recovery plan, touching base with consumers on a regular basis via telephone or in person and supporting consumers to access community activities or services.
Peer Support is invaluable in mental health. It supplements and enhances other health care services by providing emotional, social and practical assistance to manage illness; its ultimate objective is to assist consumers to stay healthy.
The National Centre for Mental Health Research, Information and Workforce Development in New Zealand released a report which documented the level of peer work in mental health services in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America, England, Ireland and Scotland (2). It found that peer support services are effective in encouraging people to move from ‘patienthood to personhood’. Benefits included reduced rates of hospitalisation and mental health service usage, reduction of distress symptoms, increases in quality of life, improvement in social support and accommodation and an increase in volunteer work or employment. There were particular benefits for the peer workers themselves including increased self-esteem and a greater knowledge of mental health. Meaningful relationships with staff led to a more effective service. Several countries have training programs for peer workers that vary in structure.
(1) Repper, J. & Carter, T. (2011) A review of the literature on peer support in mental health services. Journal of Mental Health, 20(4), 392-411.
(2) Peters, J. (2010) Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk: A summary of some peer support activities in IIMHL countries. The National Centre for Mental Health Research, Information and Workforce Development, New Zealand.
Peer Support Services are not crisis services. If you are in need of urgent assistance, please ring 000, call Lifeline on 13-11-14, call the Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511, or go to the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital.