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What is peer support?

Peer support is powerful and it works. It’s a mutual relationship where people with shared experiences support each other especially as they move through challenging times.

There is a great deal of strength gained in knowing someone who has walked where you are walking and now has a life of their choosing

Peer Worker (Review of Peer Support)

Through peer support people living with mental health challenges are seen as part of the solution. They have a significant and active role to play in supporting their own and others’ recovery. Walking alongside someone who understands, who ‘gets it’ helps people to feel less alone. It offers them the opportunity to explore their feelings and what will help them live the life they choose.

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 30 years ago there was no such thing as a Peer Worker. If I had had access to one back then my recovery would have been quicker and less solitary and stressful. We have come a long way since then, but I feel there is much room for expansion within our field of expertise.

Richard, Peer Worker, Bipolar Scotland

Peer support exists in different forms such as peer support groups and paid peer workers in mental health services. But all peer support is rooted firmly in hope, sharing experiences and an intentional relationship. Through this relationship people explore together and work towards recovery.

Peer support is different

With peer support we are often taking something that happens naturally between people and formalising it. This can happen through the creation of groups, peer worker roles and peer services. That’s why it is important not to lose the core essence of peer support. We asked you what makes peer support unique? Here’s what you said:

Peer support has four essential components:

  • Shared lived experience which builds trust and empathy
  • A mutual relationship of equals where people walk alongside rather than ‘fix’
  • A supportive relationship based on hope and belief
  • An intentional space where people explore together and work towards recovery

Peer support is values based

The future is peer!

Peer support plays an important role in mental health recovery, with the potential for it to play an even bigger role. We’re pulling out all the stops to support and showcase the power of peer support but we can’t do it alone!

Are you a group, service or organisation interested in peer support? Want to share your examples of peer support in action? Looking for a bit of help to develop peer activities?

Get in touch