Peer support has increasingly been recognized as a vital component in the path to recovery for mental illnesses such as depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The impacts of peer-to-peer interactions even reach those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, or simply those going through new life experiences like breastfeeding, recovering from a physical injury, or moving away from home.
Some of the proven benefits of peer support include: increased self-efficacy, higher self-esteem, improved knowledge of disease and medication, and lower stress. As with everything, not every person will respond the same way but luckily, there are many different ways to achieve these benefits.
What is peer to peer health support?
Peer support is rooted in sharing common experiences. Too often, healthcare workers simply don’t have the same knowledge and can’t offer the same advice as someone going through the same thing you are. It’s meant to complement healthcare services by providing emotional and social support through ongoing, frequent interactions focused on recovery. Peer support can take many forms including phone calls, online support groups, home visits, or even something as normal as eating dinner with a friend or fellow patient.
Who are peer supporters?
Peer supporters are those who offer support or help. There are groups of trained supporters who offer peer support through education, counseling, and listening. These supporters are often certified and work in organizations like schools, hospitals, or self-help groups.
Separately, there are untrained supporters who simply want to share their life experiences and help others. These supporters can be friends, neighbors, co-workers, or someone you chat with through an online forum, such as on Human Health Project. These supporters are your equals, they have shared life experiences with you, and they have a first-hand understanding of what you’re going through.
How to make the most out of peer support
Don’t be afraid to reach out. The idea of sharing your concerns or questions can seem daunting; you may think that people won’t take you seriously or even judge you. But therein lies the beauty of peer support: everyone has been in your shoes, they know what you’re going through and have probably felt the same way you feel.
Don’t minimize your problems. Every question, problem, and concern you have is important. It’s very common to think you’re making a fuss out of something small but the funny thing is, once you voice your feelings, you’ll most likely find that other people share those same feelings. Even seemingly small tasks like trying to find new recipes or tips for dealing with stress at work or school can seem significantly easier when you have someone to talk to.
Be encouraged to give back. It’s important to keep in mind that peer support is anchored in continuous, reciprocal interactions among peers. As you’re on your journey towards experiencing the benefits of peer support, be inspired to help others. There are new people everyday feeling what you’re feeling and going through what you’re going through. They are equally nervous to reach out and unsure of their next step. Through the power of peer support, these transitions into recovery and wellness can be more seamless and the benefits can positively affect many different aspects of your life.
Like what you see? Sign up to join Human Health Project, a community-based, not-for-profit website focused on using peer to peer health support for a healthier you.