Mid-Valley Behavioral Care Network

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MVBCN Overview > FOR PROVIDERS > Peer Support

Peer Support

The Value of Peer Support The Value of Peer Support
(source: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, "Peer Support/Peer Provided Services," Spring 2004, Volume 27, Number 4.)

Although there has been little research "evidence" about the benefits of peer support, many people with a psychiatric diagnosis may still find value in speaking and working with someone who identifies as having had experiences or a diagnosis similar to their own (a Peer). Peer Support has been described as social emotional support, coupled with material support such as housing or transportation, offered by peers. Recipients of peer support sometimes report the following types of changes:
  • An improvement in symptoms
  • An increased social network
  • A better quality of life
  • Reduced crisis or hospital use
  • Improved coping
  • Development of new skills
  • Greater acceptance of illness
  • Improved medication adherences
  • Lower levels of worry
  • Higher satisfaction with overall health

Common categories of peer support include:
1) self-help groups
2) Internet support groups
3) peer delivered services
4) peer run or operated services
5) peer partnerships
6) peer employees

Some mental health service delivery system benefits include:

  • Low cost for peer services
  • Reduction of traditional mental health services
  • Reduction of cost to the mental health system
  • Alteration of negative attitudes about mental health providers
  • Opportunity to see peers successfully function in productive, "normal" social roles (observing peer to peer interactions)
  • Opportunity for provider to relate to consumer, person to person
  • Combat social stigma for person with mental illness

For more information, go to www.upennrrtc.org/issues/issue_peersupport.html

Please Note:
Anecdotally, consumer/survivors describe receiving assistance or support from peers as empowering, non-labeling, accepting, genuine, respectful, safe, confidential and promoting the feeling of being free to express oneself. In the search for natural supports, peer support may be a productive arena to explore.

For more information, see work by Shery Mead at www.mentalhealthpeers.com or Mary Ellen Copeland at www.mentalhealthrecovery.com.


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