Mental Health Foundation highlights the importance of peer support in mental health recovery

Release Date: 24 August 2012

Country: United Kingdom

The Mental Health Foundation is calling for greater emphasis on the role of peer support in mental health and learning disability services in a new briefing, Peer support in mental health and learning disability.

The briefing paper highlights the benefits of peer support and showcases some of the Mental Health Foundation’s work within the area. This looks at how peer support can help people to recover, or get more control over their condition, and live fulfilling lives in their communities.

The benefits of peer support are widespread for services, individuals receiving support and the person giving it and include:

• Better mental health,
• Increased sense of wellbeing,
• Increased confidence and learning skills.

As well as the recognised health benefits, peer support can prove to be a worthy financial investment in the long term, resulting in lower overall costs, fewer hospital admissions and reduced bed days.

The success of the Mental Health Foundation’s self-management courses, which ran throughout Wales, and the pilot peer mentoring service in Scotland, Brighter Futures, demonstrate the integral part peer support can play in mental health recovery.

Terry Davies is a passionate advocate of peer support after being helped onto the road to recovery by his peer supporter. He said:

“I think peer support is vital in helping people with longer term mental health problems to move forward with their lives. It is very reassuring to receive support from a peer who has first-hand experience of what it is like living with a long term mental health condition, who is also able to empathise with problems and challenges I might face after walking a similar path themselves.

We all need encouragement and who better to give it than one who knows how tough things can be and, at the same time, has a proven track record of overcoming difficulties and moving forward with their lives.”

Simon Lawton-Smith, Head of Policy at Mental Health Foundation says:

“Peer support can be hugely important in supporting individuals in mental health recovery and, together with self-management techniques, can empower individuals to take control of their lives and put themselves back in the driving seat.

“It’s fantastic that Governments across the UK are promoting peer support in their mental health strategies. However the benefits will only be seen if local commissioners and providers of services make peer support a core part of service delivery for people with a mental health diagnosis or learning disability. There’s still a long way to go.”

The briefing is available to download.