What is peer support?

Peer support is about listening, sharing and helping. People, who have been there, help other people who are going through similar challenges and life situations.

Hand reaching for and offering help

Hand reaching for and offering help

Peers are individuals who share experiences, backgrounds and struggles. Peers are not necessarily friends but are people who can give support and maintain boundaries.

Peer support happens in different contexts:

  • common mental health challenges
  • addiction and substance abuse
  • trauma
  • family and loss
  • work and professional.

Read and share A big list of definitions of peer support!

 Mental Health Commission of Canada

MHCC: “peer support is a supportive relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. The peer support worker provides emotional and social support to others who share a common experience.” – See more at: http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/issues/peer-support#sthash.F3UJOFMR.dpuf

The Self-Help Resource Centre

The Self-Help Resource Centre defines peer support as “a process of sharing common experiences, situations or challenges. Peer support is an exchange of getting and giving support. It involves the practice of self-care and sharing “what works”. Peer Support is not based on medical models of illness and disorder, rather it is the provision of emotional, practical and informational supports by people with lived experiences, to cultivate mutual empowerment. Peer support initiatives are run by and for the participants.”

Mental Health Innovations

Mental Health Innovations (Talk with Sebastien Grenier)defines Workplace Mental Health Peer support: Peer support is based on a relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. In the case of Mental Health Peer Support the experience that individuals have in common is in relation to a mental health challenge or illness. …

Mental Health Peer Support is grounded in hopeful recovery and self-determination…

Peer support is not based on academic designations or professional roles but rather is about people offering empathetic support in a manner that empowers another to acquire a mastery over their own mental health recovery processes. Peer support is focussed on health and ability rather than illness and disability. Peer relationships are built around a deep mutual understanding and trust, and are not built on the basis of power differentials such as those found within a patient-doctor relationship.

Len Wood’s beautiful peer support poetry

Peer Support

The expression “peer support” is bandied about
by many people far and wide.
But “ What does it mean?” is the question asked
and how does one really decide.
In the context of individuals with a mental illness,
the meaning is really quite clear.
It’s a valued sharing or each other’s experiences,
with a caring heart and an open ear.
Though mental illness is by nature quite invisible,
it’s as devastating as any other disorder.
It need be understood with thoughtful kindness,
and peer support can fill this order.
Peer Support is not based on any medical model,
it sees the human side of everyone.
With this understanding we can journey together,
until mutual struggles are overcome.
Self-esteem and our sense of well being get lost,
as with illness we attempt to cope.
With compassionate support from friendly peers,
our recovery is blessed with hope.
A new sense of self-awareness tends to emerge,
whenever we support one another.
There will often surface many remarkable talents
that we buried or attempted to smother.
Merchants of discrimination and loathsome stigma
will cringe when they see us well.
They will scratch their head and appear dismayed
and will really be confused for a spell.
Peer support is a loving and nurturing experience
that will benefit most everyone.
So, before you colour it with the darkness of doubt,
put your ignorance on the run.
Len M. Wood

Len Wood biography via Mood Disorders Association of Ontario

Peersupportworks.ca focuses on peer support in work, professional and community environments.