What is peer support?
Peer support is emotional and practical support between two people who share a common experience, such as a mental health challenge or illness. A Peer Supporter has lived through that similar experience, and is trained to support others. – Peer Support Canada, 2022
The Vancouver Mental Health & Substance Use Services Peer Support Program offers formal training to those with lived experience receiving mental health services that qualifies them to apply for paid work providing support to others living with mental health issues. The program recognizes the value of lived experience, the positive learning that comes from it and the unique position that peers are often in to inspire hope as well as share insights, strategies and knowledge of resources from the perspective of having used them.
Peer Support Workers in our Peer Support Program provide practical and emotional support to others, helping them to attain goals, acquire new skills and/or link to community resources. Those receiving peer support services benefit from relational support from someone who is “walking the walk” of recovery. The system benefits from the opportunity for other mental health workers to work alongside people who are open about their personal experiences of mental illness as colleagues. This can result in system practices being better informed by lived experience and also in stigma being broken down.
Those who work as Peer Support Workers also report that the program makes a difference to them, helping them to move forward in their recovery and sometimes reframe past struggles as assets.
Peer Support Workers are individuals with lived experience of mental illness/substance use who have graduated from a Peer Support Worker Training Program. These individuals work on a contracted basis under the supervision of Rehabilitation staff with clients who access Vancouver Mental Health and Substance Use programs and services , providing support to achieve personal goals, learn new skills, and link with community resources. The peer support relationship typically lasts until the established goals of the relationship are achieved. This varies from weeks to months.
Peer Support Worker Training is provided through Vancouver Mental Health and Substance Use and other organizations such as Coast Mental Health. VCH Peer Support programs also operate on the North Shore, in Richmond, and along the Sea-to-Sky. Peer support workers receive classroom and practical training. Areas of learning include roles and responsibilities of a peer support worker, communication, boundaries, strengths-based approach/psychosocial rehabilitation principles, trauma-informed care, motivational interviewing, and confidentiality.
Updates on the next training session will be posted at https://www.spotlightonmentalhealth.com/peer-support-training-update/ when they are available.
Access to receive peer support is through referral from a staff member on the mental health team or unit where a client is receiving services. To request a peer support worker, please ask your health care provider.
There are Peer Support Workers working at all Vancouver Community Mental Health Teams, many specialized units, and some hospital sites.
For further information, please email the Peer Support Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org