By Kat McIntosh, Manager of Global Peer Support at Mental Health America
Mental Health America’s Peer Partners program is a peer-driven solution to ending isolation and social exclusion. This program helps those struggling with some of the biggest challenges that face us today -- isolation and social exclusion. Isolation and loneliness are leading risk factors for overall poor health. Research actually shows that loneliness can cause the same amount of damage as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
PEER PARTNERS PLACES A HEAVY FOCUS ON PEER SUPPORT
Peer Partners combines the strengths of peer support, psychiatric rehabilitation, and self-directed care. A huge focus is placed on providing peer support. Using a peer support group model, people receive support from a peer who has been there. Participants also receive support from others in the group. This support creates a safe space to practice social skills, provides feelings of compassion and togetherness, and helps people cope with social challenges.
PEER PARTNERS HELPS PEOPLE MAKE FRIENDS
Our pilot program showed that 61% of the participants wanted one thing -- to make friends. Our Peer Partners program places value on shared lived experiences in a non-judgmental setting. Sharing lived experiences helps people feel accepted, understood, and valued. This increases their feelings of connection to their community. Over 50% of participants felt more connected to their support networks after our program using our model.
THE PEER PARTNERS SUPPORT GROUP MODEL IS FREE AND EASY TO IMPLEMENT
Anyone can start a Peer Partners program in their community. We have created a free online training for those interested in starting a Peer Partners program in their community. You can access our Peer Partners Mini-Webinars at mhanational.org/peer-partners-mini-webinars.
Learn more about our Peer Partners program at mhanational.org/peerpartners.