Peer Respites – Crisis Care Driven by Peers

Are things are out of control. Are they going to lock me up in hospital? Peer respites may provide an alternative – voluntary, peer and relationship based, trauma-informed and person-centred space for support.Peer Respites

Peer respites are voluntary, short-term, overnight programs. They provide community-based, trauma-informed, and person-centered crisis support and prevention 24 hours per day in a homelike environment.

The image of the “crazy” guy going postal at work causes fear about asking for help. And this fear is even more intense when things are too much for “talk” therapy or workplace peer support. In these times, peer respites can provide an alternative to hospitalization. The premise behind peer respites is that psychiatric emergency services can be avoided if less coercive or intrusive supports are available in the community.

Picture of people holding hands

Supporting hands – working together

Peer respites are voluntary, trauma-informed and based on peer support principles:

  • Peer respites engage guests in mutual, trusting relationships with peer staff.
  • Individuals help themselves and others through fostering relationships and engaging in advocacy to empower people to participate in their communities.
  • More information about peer respite resources

Peer respites are particularly appealing to people who have been detained in hospitals and involuntarily treated. These experiences can be traumatizing because of power imbalances.

They are still quite alternative and not available in Ontario. They are available in many states in the USA (New England, California, Ohio, Georgia and more). If awareness grows, they may provide a way to avoid the fiscal and emotional costs of hospitalization. Peer respites face resistance:

  • They do not fit within a medical model of mental illness.
  • They could present liability concerns for governments and insurers.
  • They are not “professional” or credentialed like a hospital.

However, these objections also apply to peer support. There are more discussions and debate needed.logo

In Toronto, the Gerstein Centre provides crisis services in an alternative setting by peers and non-peers. They also have a warm-line (416-929-5200) to call when things are difficult but you are not at risk of self-harm or extreme distress. Accessing resources like this can help manage crisis and even help prepare for your hospitalization. (What hospital prep? Just like working with a peer and a therapist preparation and learning before going to hospital helps cope with the fear and makes better use of time).


National Empowerment Center

Directory of Peer-run Crisis Services –

A Peer-Run Respite indicates that peers oversee, staff, and operate the respite at all levels and that at least 51% of the Board of Directors identifies as peers.

A Hybrid indicates that although the respite is attached to a traditional provider organization and/or the Board of Directors is comprised of less than half peers, the director and staff of the respite do identify as peers.

Peer Respite –

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