Peer support

Peer support is expanding internationally at an amazing rate, and in Nottinghamshire Healthcare it is not only growing, but flourishing. Over 50 peer support workers now work in teams in Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP), Adult Mental Health (AMH) and substance misuse services. New roles are also being developed in Specialist Services.

Using peer support across the Trust is a brilliant way of promoting and aiding recovery. Peer support is an incredible tool in recovery; peer support workers are recovery-focussed and offer empathy, hope and an authentic understanding of life on a recovery journey, which research has proven to greatly benefit not just the peer support worker and the person they are supporting, but the team they work in too.

Recovery-focussed practice is something Nottinghamshire Healthcare strives for, and implementing Peer Support into services is one way of educating services around recovery and strengths-based approaches in order to deliver person-centred care to people who use our services, their family, friends and loved ones.


What is peer support?

Peer support is “a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support if not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another's situation empathetically through the shared experience of emotional and psychological pain.” (Mead, 2003).

The ethos of peer support – sharing stories with compassion, honesty and empathy to help other people who are struggling with similar things – epitomises recovery; you are not alone, you can live a meaningful life with this, it can, and it will, get better.

Peer support workers are people who have lived experience, either personally or as a carer, of mental health challenges and who use these experiences to help others on their recovery journey. They offer an empathetic ear, hold hope, and show that a diagnosis doesn't have to define a person. They can say, organically, authentically and truthfully, “it can, and it will, get better; I am living proof of that”.


Why is peer support important?

“Sometimes if a person is struggling with their mental health they can lose hope and can't see a light at the end of the tunnel, and this can ultimately hinder their recover. In these situations it can really help to talk to someone who has been where they are and has had similar experiences, and who has overcome the struggles and is living with their mental health challenges, because it shows that things really can and do improve. It shows that recovery is a journey, not a destination, and that although that journey may be an up and down one with bad days as well as good, mental health challenges, diagnosis and past experiences don't have to define a person. It shows that people are stronger than their mental health challenges, and inspires hope that people can overcome their struggles and live in recovery. It gives people a voice, and it lends them an ear, a hand, and a metaphorical hand. It shows that relapse may happen, but this doesn't mean failure, just as having a bad day doesn't mean it will last forever. It not only aids recovery, but it changes lives, and that is why peer support is important.” – Holly Wilson, Peer Support Volunteer.


How can I work with a peer support worker?

Peer support in Nottinghamshire Healthcare is provided in both inpatient and community services, throughout a range of teams. We currently have peer support workers based in the following teams:

  • Stonebridge Centre
  • Rapid Response Liaison Psychiatry (RRLP) Mansfield
  • Highbury Hospital wards
  • Maples (Recovery education)
  • Bassetlaw Community
  • Millbrook
  • Nottingham Recovery College
  • Recovery College (Primary Healthcare)
  • Mansfield Community
  • Haven House (Crisis House)
  • OCD service (Thorneywood Mount)

Peer support workers are a part of the staff team within the service they're based in. When referred to, transitioned to or admitted to a service in which there is a peer support worker, a person has the choice of whether or not they want to work with them. Peer support is person-centred, and an opt-in addition to an existing team.


How does peer support benefit services?

Having peer support workers has many benefits, not only to the team or service they work in but to the Trust as a whole. Peer support workers introduce recovery-focussed, strengths-based practices into teams, which can lead to a more recovery-minded workforce, which will benefit service users as their recovery will be at the forefront of every interaction they have with members of staff. Working with a peer support worker can give people hope as they can see that it does get better, and this can in turn lead to less hospital admissions and more people living in the community with their mental health challenges on their recovery journey.

For more information about peer support in Nottinghamshire Healthcare, please contact the Peer Support Development Team:

Peer Support Development Team, Duncan Macmillan House, Porchester Road, Nottingham, NG3 6AA

For more information about peer support in a specific service please visit the service's page on the website by using the service A-Z.

For more information about becoming a peer support worker and the peer support training course, please visit: peer support training.