Peer support

Explains what peer support is, what types there are, how it can help you and how to access it.

Your stories

Joining a support group

Jim blogs about joining his local support group.

Posted on 28/09/2016

Finding a place to fit in

Sue blogs about finding a place to fit in at her local peer support group.

Posted on 28/09/2016

Is it right for me?

What kind of support you find most helpful is completely up to you. Many people find that peer support helps them to feel more in control of how they manage their mental health.

Before trying peer support, it can be helpful to think about the following:

  • Am I comfortable talking about my experiences to new people? Talking about your experiences and feelings can make you feel more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Lots of people take a couple of sessions to start sharing their experiences freely.
  • Do I want to focus on talking about my experiences, or take part in an activity? You may want to take part in activities like music, art or gardening to get to know people, or you may prefer to just talk with others in a support group setting. If you're not sure what's right for you, you can explore different options before you commit to anything.
  • Am I comfortable hearing about others' experiences? Listening to others' experiences is a big part of peer support. This can help you feel less alone or introduce you to new coping strategies but there may be also be times when other people's experiences by be unhelpful or triggering for you.
  • Do I need more personal support? You may decide that sometimes you would prefer to talk to a therapist or professional, rather than a peer.
  • Am I well enough? If you need more regular or crisis support, peer support might not be right for you at the moment. If a support group sounds like it might be too intense, something less formal like gardening or sport might be suitable option.
  • Is it the right time? You might decide that peer support isn't what you need at the moment. Many people dip in and out of peer support at different times - you will still be able to access it in the future if you want to.

It’s not always about getting or giving advice. It’s also about having a safe space to get things off our chest and occasionally sharing a laugh about it all!

The kind of support that works for you in completely personal. If you aren't finding something helpful, you can try something else. For example, online support can be helpful if you feel worried about going to a group in person for the first time.

You could discuss this with your GP or mental health professional, or with your friends and family to help you decide. See our page on types of peer support for more information on what to consider for each type.

There were coping techniques I learnt about that day which I still use.

> Rajvi blogs about sharing her experiences with others

What if peer support isn’t working for me?

If you try a support group that doesn't feel right to you, that's okay. You want try a few options before you find out where you feel most comfortable.

Peer support may be useful to you at some times and not others. If it's not the right thing for you now, you will still be able to access it in the future if you want to.

You may want to explore alternative forms of support, such as:

What if I have a complaint?

Good peer support providers will respond to questions or complaints carefully and with respect. If something makes you uncomfortable, you can always ask to discuss it with whoever organises the group. If this is not possible, or you still don’t feel comfortable with that group, it may be best to look for another that is more able to take care of you.

If at any point you are worried for your safety or enter a mental health crisis, your safety should come first. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or, if at immediate risk, call 999 or go to A&E. Once you are safe, you can discuss with a suitable professional - a GP, social worker or in very serious circumstances, the police - any concerns you have about the peer support you've received.

This information was published in June 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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