What Is Peer Support?

Reviewed Apr 26, 2017

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Summary

Peers can be found in many settings such as the military, academics, work, or health care.

What does it mean to be a peer?

Peer is a word used to refer to people who have things in common. Peers use their shared experiences to help each other. This is called peer support. Peer support is based on the belief that people who have overcome hardships can offer useful help to others who are facing like issues. Most people take this as true for many health problems. For example, there are cancer support groups. There are addiction support groups and more. Peers can be found in many settings such as the military, academics, work, or health care.

History of the peer movement   

Peer, when used in mental health, often refers to people in treatment. Consumer is another commonly used term. Society has been slow to believe that people with mental health challenges can help each other overcome hardships. Stigma is a big factor. Have you ever wondered where the idea came from that people with mental health issues could help each other? Here are a few facts about peer support and mental health.

During the 1960s and 1970s many large state hospitals closed. People returned to communities where treatment and supports were not in place or inadequate. Former patients began meeting to socialize and give support. They shared stories and found out that many had been subjected to coercive treatments. Angry and inspired by the civil rights movement, people led protests. Their motto was “nothing about us without us.” Peers knew that people who had been in mental hospitals could help themselves and others. They demanded the same rights as other Americans. This included freedom of choice about mental health care. They proposed peer-run programs outside the mental health system. Their ideas were viewed as radical and misguided. Well-meaning experts opposed the ideas. But, leaders of the movement were determined to take control of their lives. They refused to give up hope.

Judi Chamberlin was one of the leaders. She had been in a mental hospital. In 1978, Judi wrote a book about her experiences, On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System. The book is a landmark work in the peer movement. Her writings inspired people to take control of their lives. In 1983, peers in Maryland opened one of the first peer-run centers in the United States. They named it On Our Own Inc. as a tribute to Chamberlain. The state now has 15 peer-run programs under that name.

Peer run programs and services

Today, peer run programs can be found throughout the U.S. and abroad. Federal and state agencies hire peers and fund peer programs and services. Many states offer special training and certification. There are practice guidelines. Peers work in hospitals and outpatient centers right beside staff. Still, peer services are not the same. Peer support is non-clinical and can be formal or not. Peers both give and get support. The relationships are equal, and decisions should not be made for other peers.

Even if much has changed over the years with peer support in mental health, more work is needed. Peers and staff keep learning how to work together to improve the lives of people with mental illness. Stigma is a big problem. But at least two ideas from the early peer movement once considered radical are more accepted today: People with mental health challenges can give useful supports. And, the principle of self-determination is vital to recovery.

Resource

InterNational Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS)
National Practice Guidelines
http://inaops.org/national-standards/

By Jacquelyn Pettis, RN, MSN, CPRS, Manager of Wellness and Recovery, Beacon Health Options
Source: International Association of Peer Supporters. National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters, http://inaops.org/national-standards; Milestones of the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-­‐patient (C/S/X) Movement for Social Justice, http://www.ncmhr.org/downloads/ADA-Legacy-Project-Mental-Health-CSX-Movement-History-Milestones.pdf; On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System by Judi Chamberlin. Haworth Press, 1978; “The Legacy of Peer Support” by Patricia Deegan, www.patdeegan.com/blog/posts/legacy-peer-support.

Summary

Peers can be found in many settings such as the military, academics, work, or health care.

What does it mean to be a peer?

Peer is a word used to refer to people who have things in common. Peers use their shared experiences to help each other. This is called peer support. Peer support is based on the belief that people who have overcome hardships can offer useful help to others who are facing like issues. Most people take this as true for many health problems. For example, there are cancer support groups. There are addiction support groups and more. Peers can be found in many settings such as the military, academics, work, or health care.

History of the peer movement   

Peer, when used in mental health, often refers to people in treatment. Consumer is another commonly used term. Society has been slow to believe that people with mental health challenges can help each other overcome hardships. Stigma is a big factor. Have you ever wondered where the idea came from that people with mental health issues could help each other? Here are a few facts about peer support and mental health.

During the 1960s and 1970s many large state hospitals closed. People returned to communities where treatment and supports were not in place or inadequate. Former patients began meeting to socialize and give support. They shared stories and found out that many had been subjected to coercive treatments. Angry and inspired by the civil rights movement, people led protests. Their motto was “nothing about us without us.” Peers knew that people who had been in mental hospitals could help themselves and others. They demanded the same rights as other Americans. This included freedom of choice about mental health care. They proposed peer-run programs outside the mental health system. Their ideas were viewed as radical and misguided. Well-meaning experts opposed the ideas. But, leaders of the movement were determined to take control of their lives. They refused to give up hope.

Judi Chamberlin was one of the leaders. She had been in a mental hospital. In 1978, Judi wrote a book about her experiences, On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System. The book is a landmark work in the peer movement. Her writings inspired people to take control of their lives. In 1983, peers in Maryland opened one of the first peer-run centers in the United States. They named it On Our Own Inc. as a tribute to Chamberlain. The state now has 15 peer-run programs under that name.

Peer run programs and services

Today, peer run programs can be found throughout the U.S. and abroad. Federal and state agencies hire peers and fund peer programs and services. Many states offer special training and certification. There are practice guidelines. Peers work in hospitals and outpatient centers right beside staff. Still, peer services are not the same. Peer support is non-clinical and can be formal or not. Peers both give and get support. The relationships are equal, and decisions should not be made for other peers.

Even if much has changed over the years with peer support in mental health, more work is needed. Peers and staff keep learning how to work together to improve the lives of people with mental illness. Stigma is a big problem. But at least two ideas from the early peer movement once considered radical are more accepted today: People with mental health challenges can give useful supports. And, the principle of self-determination is vital to recovery.

Resource

InterNational Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS)
National Practice Guidelines
http://inaops.org/national-standards/

By Jacquelyn Pettis, RN, MSN, CPRS, Manager of Wellness and Recovery, Beacon Health Options
Source: International Association of Peer Supporters. National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters, http://inaops.org/national-standards; Milestones of the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-­‐patient (C/S/X) Movement for Social Justice, http://www.ncmhr.org/downloads/ADA-Legacy-Project-Mental-Health-CSX-Movement-History-Milestones.pdf; On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System by Judi Chamberlin. Haworth Press, 1978; “The Legacy of Peer Support” by Patricia Deegan, www.patdeegan.com/blog/posts/legacy-peer-support.

Summary

Peers can be found in many settings such as the military, academics, work, or health care.

What does it mean to be a peer?

Peer is a word used to refer to people who have things in common. Peers use their shared experiences to help each other. This is called peer support. Peer support is based on the belief that people who have overcome hardships can offer useful help to others who are facing like issues. Most people take this as true for many health problems. For example, there are cancer support groups. There are addiction support groups and more. Peers can be found in many settings such as the military, academics, work, or health care.

History of the peer movement   

Peer, when used in mental health, often refers to people in treatment. Consumer is another commonly used term. Society has been slow to believe that people with mental health challenges can help each other overcome hardships. Stigma is a big factor. Have you ever wondered where the idea came from that people with mental health issues could help each other? Here are a few facts about peer support and mental health.

During the 1960s and 1970s many large state hospitals closed. People returned to communities where treatment and supports were not in place or inadequate. Former patients began meeting to socialize and give support. They shared stories and found out that many had been subjected to coercive treatments. Angry and inspired by the civil rights movement, people led protests. Their motto was “nothing about us without us.” Peers knew that people who had been in mental hospitals could help themselves and others. They demanded the same rights as other Americans. This included freedom of choice about mental health care. They proposed peer-run programs outside the mental health system. Their ideas were viewed as radical and misguided. Well-meaning experts opposed the ideas. But, leaders of the movement were determined to take control of their lives. They refused to give up hope.

Judi Chamberlin was one of the leaders. She had been in a mental hospital. In 1978, Judi wrote a book about her experiences, On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System. The book is a landmark work in the peer movement. Her writings inspired people to take control of their lives. In 1983, peers in Maryland opened one of the first peer-run centers in the United States. They named it On Our Own Inc. as a tribute to Chamberlain. The state now has 15 peer-run programs under that name.

Peer run programs and services

Today, peer run programs can be found throughout the U.S. and abroad. Federal and state agencies hire peers and fund peer programs and services. Many states offer special training and certification. There are practice guidelines. Peers work in hospitals and outpatient centers right beside staff. Still, peer services are not the same. Peer support is non-clinical and can be formal or not. Peers both give and get support. The relationships are equal, and decisions should not be made for other peers.

Even if much has changed over the years with peer support in mental health, more work is needed. Peers and staff keep learning how to work together to improve the lives of people with mental illness. Stigma is a big problem. But at least two ideas from the early peer movement once considered radical are more accepted today: People with mental health challenges can give useful supports. And, the principle of self-determination is vital to recovery.

Resource

InterNational Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS)
National Practice Guidelines
http://inaops.org/national-standards/

By Jacquelyn Pettis, RN, MSN, CPRS, Manager of Wellness and Recovery, Beacon Health Options
Source: International Association of Peer Supporters. National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters, http://inaops.org/national-standards; Milestones of the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-­‐patient (C/S/X) Movement for Social Justice, http://www.ncmhr.org/downloads/ADA-Legacy-Project-Mental-Health-CSX-Movement-History-Milestones.pdf; On Our Own: Patient Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System by Judi Chamberlin. Haworth Press, 1978; “The Legacy of Peer Support” by Patricia Deegan, www.patdeegan.com/blog/posts/legacy-peer-support.

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