Peer support in the emergency services

Mind’s survey of blue light personnel found individuals ‘are just as likely to seek help from a colleague as from a GP, and two-thirds were most likely to seek support from family and friends’. This indicates that people value peer support in managing their mental health, across all of the emergency services. We’ve put together a set of resources to help emergency services set up or build on their existing peer support networks. You can download the resources below.

What is peer support?

Peer support benefits everyone; it is when people use their own experiences to help each other. Giving and receiving peer support can improve your emotional health, wellbeing and sense of belonging. How you choose to meet up or connect with people is very flexible and depends on your personal preferences. Peer support can happen in person, online, through groups or over the phone.

Peer support allows colleagues to support one another outside of your formal line-management structure and offers a great way to maximise the range of skills and experience held within your service. Mentoring and buddy schemes can help new staff to understand your organisation faster and can support all staff to gain confidence and develop new skills.

Find out more about peer support and its benefits here.

To me peer support is comradeship, that virtual or physical arm around someone’s shoulder to say you are a human being too and despite the calls, the radio transmissions, the deployments, the workload that you have time to talk, to offer help to someone who is struggling.

Peer support in practice

Some emergency service organisations have put peer support in place already:

  • One service established a confidential peer support network through their disability support group and health and wellbeing forums. This works as a directory of people with lived experience of mental and physical health conditions.

  • Another service established a career mentoring scheme. Senior officers and staff with lived experience of a mental health problem mentor other members of staff who also have lived experience.

  • A third service developed a wellbeing network for staff with and without lived experience of mental health problems. They provide signposting support to colleagues, organise events and help keep mental health on the agenda in the workplace.

Download peer support resources

Encouraging and putting in place peer support could help to ensure people are able to access information, signposting and get support when they are struggling with a mental health problem. Whether you’re thinking of setting up a peer support network or already have one in place that you want to build on, there are resources that can help whatever stage you’re at.

Mind's Side by Side resources toolkit contains everything you need for your peer support project. Whether you're starting from scratch, encountering problems, thinking about evaluating your work or looking to improve your facilitation, you can dip in and out and simply select the resources you need.

 

Download the Side by Side toolkit

Other resources

  • Suffolk Mind leaflet: Use these simple steps from Suffolk Mind on starting your own peer support group.
  • Peer support benefits presentation: Want to encourage your service to create space for peer to peer support? Use our presentation, co-created with emergency services staff and volunteers, to get the right people on board. You can find additional presentation notes here.

  • Looking after yourself as a peer supporter: We caught up with Amanda, a peer supporter from North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) to see how she stays well whilst doing the role. Read here what we chatted about and reflect on how to take care of yourself as a peer supporter.
     
  • Introduction to mental health awareness presentation: Use our presentation to raise awareness of mental health amongst your colleagues or as part of the training you offer to peer supporters. Feel free to add in your own slides, adapt its length and style to meet your needs. Read the presentation cover note before you get started.

  • Top tips from peer supporters: At the start of the journey to co-create the above tools we brought together eleven peer supporters across the emergency services to get their thoughts and ideas. This document highlights their key tips on delivering peer support.

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