Peer support is about having authentic intentional relationships with others. Some of the key aspects of this are; the responsibility for how the relationship develops is mutual, it involves direct honest and respectful communication, it’s about moving towards goals rather than away from fears and understanding and validating a person’s experience as a way of coping or surviving difficult life circumstances.
Peer support workers bring understanding, empathy and shared inspiration and hope to individuals accessing services. Peer support workers can help to support people both practically and emotionally by using their own lived experience to support others through their journey of mental health and recovery. One of the main benefits is also of mutual understanding of the nature of mental health and the fact that a recovery journey can be ongoing throughout life, constantly adjusting to new situations and experiences.
Peer support workers put the person at the heart of their own journey and take care to support them to make the right steps for them. Support has included assisting people to appointments and new opportunities and also helping individuals to navigate the mental health system and also other appropriate services such as housing and finance organisations. Peer support workers can also give mentorship to individuals and use their own experiences to bring new understanding and support problem solving and coping strategies and help them to move forward in a positive way.
It is of great benefit to professional staff to work alongside peer support workers who can bring new understanding to a team’s beliefs about mental health. Peer support workers can also act in the capacity of mental health advocates to help communicate an individual’s needs or wishes in complex situations.