About Peer Support Groups

These are self-help groups, where members have a shared experience and can give and receive support in a safe environment. In this context, the shared experience is mental illness and the aim is to help each other towards improved mental health.

The ground rules for the group and the 'mechanics' e.g. how often to meet, where and when etc, should be decided by group members, although the rules nearly always involve confidentiality and respect for each other's views.

Groups can operate on an open 'drop-in' basis or they can be 'closed' groups. The latter may have been formed by a group of individuals who have previously met during group therapy courses organised by the Health Service. Groups can be very focused on mental health support or can be more of a social opportunity. Of course, there is no reason why an effective group cannot embrace practical support and social contact.

The Forum has been involved in piloting or assisting a handful of such groups and we hope to encourage the formation of more in the future.

Peer Support Groups in a mental health context can be wonderful environments for support and Recovery for people that suffer or have suffered from mental illness. However, as we have touched on, they are dependent on their own members to sustain them.

This responsibility can be quite daunting so the Forum have designed a REC (Recovery Education Centre) course that guides people in the setting up of new groups as well as the sustaining or reviving of existing groups.

Please refer to the main page of our website to download a copy of our latest REC prospectus where you will find the 'Peer Support Group Toolkit' course.

Why Peer Support could help...

  • It is reassuring to meet others who are experiencing just the same kind of feelings; to know you are not the only one
  • When everyone is in “the same boat” it is easier to feel trusting, accepted and understood; the support is relaxed and mutual
  • There is an opportunity to give as well as receive support, which can make you feel better about yourself
  • It is encouraging to hear about self-help tips that have worked for other people and to have the support of the group to try them out yourself
  • It can be easier to socialise in a supportive environment and being part of the peer network means there can be people within reach that you can contact
  • There isn't any pressure; it is ok to participate in whatever way you are able, knowing it is very likely that others will understand any difficulties

Remember that individual guided self-help sessions or a computer-based self-help programme called “Beating the Blues” are available through your GP. Also, anyone can access another self-help computer programme at the Living Life to the Full website.