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Just hearing that someone else was going through something similar to me helped me be more kind to myself.

Trish O’ Brien, Mental Health Network Peer Support Coordinator, with Fife Voluntary Action, tells us what peer support means to her.

My personal experience of peer support throughout the ebbs and flows of my mental health journey has been invaluable. At the time I didn’t realise that some of the relationships I had were very much based on an informal peer model but looking back I can see the mutuality and reciprocity in each one. I am sure many of you can identify similar relationships on your own journeys.

My examples start from way back when I had 3 children under 2 years of age (twins) with post-natal depression. I forced myself to get out to a parent and toddler group where I chatted with parents who were also struggling with juggling the demands of life. From there I started a twin’s club which also enabled us to share experiences and coping strategies. Just hearing that someone else was going through something similar to me helped me be more kind to myself.

The value of peer

Since taking up my position with Fife Voluntary Action to establish and coordinate a network of people interested in growing peer support in Fife, I am becoming more and more aware of how effective and valuable peer is. Bearing in mind how isolated and anxious I was feeling during lockdown and still am feeling at times, I can imagine that many others have struggled too. If we were to be entirely honest, most of our mental wellbeing has taken a bit of a bashing. I have found my own self-talk harsh – ‘Just get on with it…’  ‘There are others who are worse off than me…’. ‘Get a grip…’  I must admit it is really difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, to remember things that are said during Zoom meetings or on the phone and to feel like I have been productive at the end of each day. But then I find if I take the time to talk with a trusted colleague my stress is immediately lessened just by sharing and listening to them share their stories, hopes and fears.

How good would it be if we felt able to share our experiences wholeheartedly and authentically without fear of judgment in the workplace. Imagine if there were people employed by your employer, by your GP or health worker, by your support agency etc to facilitate such discussions and to journey with you while you go through your struggles to recover from the repercussions of the pandemic or whatever caused your mental wellbeing to be impaired.

Peer support in Fife

This is our aim in Fife to facilitate and mobilise a network of like-minded people with lived experience of mental ill-health to create and increase opportunities for statutory and voluntary services to engage and employ Mental Health Peer Support Workers. I believe there has never been more need for an army of peer practitioners in the workplace, in health and social care services, in the Public Sector and in our communities than right now!

But then I find if I take the time to talk with a trusted colleague my stress is immediately lessened just by sharing and listening to them share their stories, hopes and fears.

Trish

Podcast

If you prefer you can listen to the audio version.

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