Many people who have experienced episodes of mental illness, know only too well how difficult it can be to get the help that you need at the time that you need it. They also know how beneficial it can be to speak to someone who really understands, first handedly, what it’s like to have extraordinary experiences.
Peer support can be thought of as someone with lived experience of mental health problems, offering support to an other in similar situation. This support can provided on practical, emotional or social issues. Either way, this peer-to-peer support is beneficial to the self esteem of both parties involved.
Peer support can be formal or informal. At the Haven, we offer peer-led support groups for all aspects of living with mental illness and also specifically for voice hearing and other extraordinary experiences. We also provide one-to-one peer informal support or mentoring, where we match the needs of the person seeking help with the experiences of the person providing the support.
Peer mentoring and befriending is an informal way of providing peer support. Our experienced and trained peer support volunteers offer their services on a regular basis to the acute wards at Carseview and also at other organisations in Dundee. This enables people to start building supportive relationships with outside agencies before being discharged, easing the transition from living in wards to moving back into the community.
Many of the peer support volunteers also deliver training and awareness sessions for professionals, medical students, nursing students and other outside agencies. The team has carried out seminars with first year mental health nursing students at Abertay University in the past. On one of those occasions, one student commented that:
‘I’d just like to say how amazing I found yesterday’s class. The speakers were inspirational, and the group work and discussion was one of the best I’ve been part of since starting university. I learned so much and just wanted to pass it on and say: Thank you’. (Nurse Student)