Dealing with mental health issues can be overwhelming and isolating. You may feel like nobody understands what you’re going through or that you’re entirely on your own. But you don’t have to feel that way. Mental health peer support is an effective way to help people dealing with mental health issues.
A mental health peer support worker is someone who has lived through the same experiences and challenges as you. They are trained professionals who can offer mentorship and emotional support to individuals dealing with mental illness.
What is a Mental Health Peer Support Worker?
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, a staggering 8.6 million (44% of the population) have experienced a mental disorder at some time during their lifetime. So, it’s not surprising that many people are looking for support in managing the challenges they face.
Mental health peer support workers are individuals who support and assist people with lived mental health experiences and knowledge. They provide guidance, advice, and practical support to those struggling with mental health or substance use issues.
This means they may have gone through similar mental health issues and have received treatment and support.
Essentially, they do the same job as a mental health support worker but provide mentorship and the comfort that only those who have experienced your challenges can give.
“Mental health peer support workers are individuals who support and assist people with lived mental health experiences and knowledge.”
What Qualifications Do They Have?
Peer support workers may not require formal education or mental health training, but crucially they must have lived experience with mental health issues.
Most have been through the mental healthcare system and have firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by people with mental health issues.
However, some training and qualifications may be necessary for higher-level roles, such as managing peer support workers.
What Does a Mental Health Peer Support Worker Do? How they can assist?
Their main role is to provide emotional support, and practical assistance, and understand those living with mental health challenges.
They also help patients navigate the mental healthcare system and access the resources they need to recover. This means they can:
- Help set and achieve goals
- Develop healthy coping mechanisms
- Provide a safe space for people to share their experiences.
Benefits of Working with a Mental Health Peer Support Worker
Working with a peer support worker can be beneficial in numerous ways.
- Support workers can provide a sense of hope and inspiration for those struggling with mental health issues.
- They can facilitate conversations about challenging topics or experiences that one may be hesitant to share with a healthcare professional.
- Provide a unique perspective and understanding of what it feels like to experience mental health difficulties, creating a unique sense of relateability and empathy.
How can a peer support worker help you?
So, let’s discover 5 ways they can assist you overcome personal mental health challenges
1. Offer emotional support and guidance
A peer support worker can provide emotional support and guidance as you try to make sense of the challenges you’re facing. They are trained to listen and offer a non-judgmental perspective that comes from empathy as someone who has been through similar circumstances.
- Share coping strategies
- Offer self-help techniques
- Provide practical solutions for managing your stress levels.
2. Create a recovery plan
Coping with mental illness takes time. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for one person may not work for you. Peer support workers can work with you to develop a recovery plan tailored to your specific needs. This can include anything from setting short- and long-term goals for your mental health to identifying activities or hobbies that bring you joy and make you feel better.
3. Provide mental health education
Understanding your mental health diagnosis and treatment options is essential for recovery. Peer support workers can provide mental health education and resources, including information about medication, therapy, and community support groups. By learning about the benefits of treatment and how it works, you can be more confident and informed when engaging with mental health professionals.
4. Advocate for your rights and preferences
Understanding your own rights and preferences in your care is important.
Peer support workers can advocate for your rights and preferences, noting any issues you may have with your care. This can include problems with medication, misunderstandings with healthcare providers, and access to quality care.
5. Provide a sense of community
Mental illness can leave you feeling isolated and alienated from your family, friends, and the wider community. Peer support workers can provide that sense of connection and belonging that comes with a community experience, offering a friendly ear and a welcoming place to discuss your challenges.
What to look for when trying to find the right Mental Health Peer Support Worker?
There are several key factors to consider. Here are some things to look for:
- Qualifications and Experience: Ensure that the peer support worker has appropriate qualifications and experience in the field of mental health. Look for certifications, training, or relevant degrees that demonstrate their expertise in providing support to individuals with mental health conditions.
- Peer Experience: A crucial aspect of a peer support worker is their personal lived experience with mental health challenges. They should be able to relate to and empathise with individuals facing similar issues. Ask about their own journey and how they have used their experiences to support others.
- NDIS Registration: If you are utilizing NDIS funding, check if the peer support worker is registered with the NDIS. This ensures they meet the necessary standards and guidelines set by the scheme.
- Trust: Building a trusting and supportive relationship is vital in peer support. Consider meeting with the potential peer support worker or having a phone conversation to gauge their communication style, empathy, and compatibility with your needs and goals. It’s essential to feel comfortable and understood by the person providing support.
- References and Recommendations: Ask for references or seek recommendations from mental health professionals, support groups, or other individuals who have utilized peer support services. Hearing about others’ experiences can give you insights into the worker’s effectiveness and the quality of their support.
- Availability and Accessibility: Ensure the peer support worker’s availability aligns with your needs. Consider factors such as their location, ability to offer remote support if needed, and their availability for regular sessions or emergencies.
- Boundaries and Confidentiality: Peer support workers should have a clear understanding of professional boundaries and maintain confidentiality. Inquire about their approach to privacy and confidentiality to ensure your information is handled appropriately.
Remember, finding the right peer support worker may require some trial and error. It’s okay to explore multiple options and make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.
How to find a Mental Health Peer Support Worker
Mental health peer support workers can be found in mental health clinics, community centres, peer support groups and at mental health NDIS providers just like Astute Living Care.
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues and need support, talk to us about how to access this service.
To end on…
Peer support workers are valuable assets in the mental healthcare system, providing essential knowledge, support, and encouragement for individuals struggling with mental health challenges. They offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and provide practical assistance and guidance in navigating the mental healthcare system as we’ve discovered.
For more information, get in touch with our friendly team of mental health experts at Astute Living Care about our mental health peer support program.