Peer support has long been a valuable avenue in the mental health field. It has been found in inpatient facilities, day centres, and in service user groups. The core of peer support is finding that you are not alone in your experiences. This awareness that develops through peer support can lead to reassurance, hope, and confidence. Additionally, coming together in adverse circumstances, can lead to an increased sense of camaraderie and can ultimately be more supportive than the treatment they are currently receiving.
Mental health peer support can be both informal and formal. Oftentimes, peer support just occurs between friends and family. Peer support, however, also exists within formal organizations. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, there are mental health support groups. In formal settings, mental health workers implement a recovery-focused approach. Even in the formal groups, peer support is relatively less expensive in comparison to other forms of support and treatment. This is beneficial for individuals who may not be able to shell out money for therapy sessions and treatments. Especially if the benefits are relatively the same, peer support is a great alternative.
There are many benefits to peer support. One main benefit is the sense of community that peer support can bring. Whether you are receiving support from a friend or family member, or a larger group in a formal setting, the sense of community heightens. The feeling of support and community has been shown to be a primary factor in the improvement and stability of people’s mental health. Another benefit is the instillation of confidence. Individuals who receive peer support feel that communicating with others who are facing/have faced similar difficulties increases their confidence. Furthermore, if those individuals are also helping others with their problems, they may feel even more confident because they are able to support others. Other benefits are friendship, decreased isolation, increased inspiration and motivation, and a feeling of belonging and acceptance. Some benefits that extend beyond those receiving peer support are increased community involvement and fewer hospitalizations. Increased community involvement pays it forward to society and decreased hospitalizations save beds.
The future of peer support is promising. Although peer support has not become a mainstream source of support yet, it is on the rise and has been used widely at a smaller scale. It has many benefits and can be a great option or addition to traditional forms of treatment.