Peer Support – an introduction

What is Peer Support?

A much quoted description penned by Mary Ellen Copland and Shery Mead sums it up well:

‘Peer support is not like clinical support, and it is more than just being friends. In peer support we understand each other because we’ve ‘been there’, shared similar experiences and can model for each other a willingness to learn and grow.

We come together with the intention of changing unhelpful patterns, getting out of ‘stuck’ places, and building relationships that are respectful, mutually responsible, and potentially mutually transforming.  Instead of taking care of each other and thinking of each other as ‘sick’, in peer support we build a sense of family and community that is mutually responsible and focused on recovery and social action’.”

Website: Mental Health Peers

Types of Peer Support

Ann looks at various types of peer support and groups them into two main types: Mutual support or self-help groups, and peer provided services.

Each type can be further sub-divided, but each offers particular benefits, both to those receiving the service and those providing it.

However, such services, especially peer provided services where peers work alongside other mental health workers, need careful preparation and training. This is true both for the peer support workers and for the other workers involved.

Ann describes the considerable body of experience in providing these services in Scotland and Australia, as well as in England, which she states is encouraging overall.


Some Local Groups and Organisations using Peer Support

Chard Intentional Peer Support Group (Somerset)

Cool Recovery (South Devon)

Dorset Mental Health Forum

MASH (Mutual Aid and Self Help, Torquay)

Torbay Bipolar Support Group


Guidelines on developing peer support – Scotland, 2011 (pdf, 59 pages)

Introduction to Peer Support, Richard Brabrook, 2006 (PowerPoint, 16 slides)

Understanding Peer Support and options for action in Devon – A discussion document for Recovery Devon, Ann Ley, 2009 (pdf, 16 pages)

How to Support Peer Support, Ann Ley, Glenn Roberts, Dawn Willis, 2010 (pdf, 10 pages)
Evaluation of the Intentional Peer Support course run in Devon by Shery Mead in 2007.
First published in the Journal of Public Mental Health, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2010

Peer Support Worker Pilot Scheme Evaluation, Scottish Development Centre for Mental Health et al, 2009 (pdf, 4 pages)

Mental Health Peer Supported Hospital-to-Home Project, Government of South Australia, 2006 (pdf, 32 pages)

Web Links

National Mental Health Development Unit (NMHDU) Videos- Establishing peer led services

Scottish Recovery Network – Peer Support

Recovery In-Sight

Mental Health Peers (Shery Mead Consulting)

Wellbeing Recovery Learning (Mary O’Hagan and Sara McCook Weir)

Wellbeing recovery learning is structured life learning in a peer support context – designed and delivered by and for people with experience of mental distress.