How to give peer support?
What is peer support?
Peer support is a voluntary, reciprocal exchange of experiences where people in similar life situations support each other. Sharing common experiences increases mutual understanding. Listening to other people with mental health problems tell their stories of coping is particularly important in times of loneliness. Peer support helps people to better understand the past and to commit to the present, and also gives them hope for the future.
Sharing experiences with peers in a respectful atmosphere eases anxiety and removes fear. Having a psychotic illness carries a risk of marginalisation and negative and stigmatising feelings of guilt and shame. The support and sharing of peers who have experienced the same problems can often make a big difference.
The stages of a crisis and how to understand them
People cope with drastic life changes in different ways. Coping depends on many factors, such as previous life experiences, temperament, beliefs, and the social support network and support received after the crisis. However, the progression of a traumatic crisis is often seen to follow the following stages: shock, reaction, processing and reorientation. This division is not unambiguous and is also shared by experts.
Many people who have experienced a crisis, for example in the MIELI peer support groups, have said that these phases are a good general description of how the situation unfolds. However, each person has an individual path that needs to be taken into account in the recovery process.
During the reaction phase, the person begins to face the traumatic event in a small way and tries to make sense of what has happened and what it means. The feelings of those in the reaction phase are often similar: “I think I’m going crazy”, “My head can’t take it”, “Will I ever get through this?” The event that caused the crisis may recur in waking and sleeping memories.
The person in the reaction phase needs a listener, concrete advice and a chance to be heard. He or she may need to talk about the event over and over again. This can sometimes feel very overwhelming and exhausting for those close to him or her. However, talking is an important part of recovery. It helps people to understand what has happened and it is easier to face feelings when they are given names. You can share your experiences and get support from others who have been through the same thing. Talking also helps people to understand their own behaviour. Talking also allows you to look at the situation from different angles and become aware of its significance.
Learn more about the different stages of a crisis below!
Guidelines for peer support.
If the conversation raises doubts about your own or another person’s acute wellbeing, it is best not to go too deep and if you need help you can always ask https://www.tuntuu.fi/apua.html. Sometimes, when providing peer support, it is worth simply encouraging people to seek help from the public sector and, if necessary, to be supportive in lowering the threshold for leaving home.
When providing peer support, remember to feel your own resilience and resources to help others. Be empathetic to yourself and take the conversation as deep as you feel it needs to go.
At https://www.tuntuu.fi/apua.html you will find good chats for asking yourself and others for tips. Local crisis/health centres can also signpost you to the help you need. In emergencies, contact 112. DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK FOR HELP
In conversations, especially peer-to-peer ones, it is good to be aware that they can be emotional. Old things may come back to you. It is always a good idea to end discussions with good, everyday things that make you feel good. Return to the present moment and turn your thoughts to the future, to pleasant things and factors.