What is Peer Support?
Peer workers are people who have lived experience with mental health and/or substance use disorders. We did not learn about mental health from a textbook, but from our own lived experience. We use this mutuality of experience to connect with others and help our community to see that recovery is an achievable reality.
Peer support has existed in some form since the late 18th century, when a psychiatric hospital in France began hiring former patients with the belief that workers who had been hospitalized in the past would provide more kind and humane treatment than those who hadn’t. Peer support is a key component of the twelve step movement and has been a growing force in the mental health community since the 1970s.
Peer work exists in many forms, and is a growing practice within the professional mental health services landscape. Studies have shown overwhelmingly positive results for people who utilize peer support specialists, including fewer psychiatric hospitalizations than those who do not use peer support (Davidson, L. et al, 2012) and better outcomes in depression symptoms than care as usual (Pfeiffer et al, 2011).
Peer support offers a level of acceptance, understanding, and validation not found in many other professional relationships (Mead & McNeil, 2006). Peer workers strive to promote hope and self-determination within our community. Peer Support Specialists work with participants to develop goals, create strategies for self-empowerment, and offer practical advice along the way. Peer workers know firsthand that a mental health diagnosis does not have to limit a person's potential, and work to promote this ideology among the greater community.