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How peer support workers are helping others to recover

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Peer support workers in our community mental health teams

The work of a group of unsung heroes who are helping to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing in Lincolnshire is being celebrated on World Mental Health Day next week.

Peer support workers are people who have lived through mental health problems and are employed by mental health trusts to use their experiences to advise and support others.

Patients helped by peer support workers could include those who feel stuck in their recovery; have difficulties planning their future; struggle to cope with life events; or are leaving hospital to go home or move to a mental health recovery unit.

Brett Peterson has been a peer support worker at Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for just over a year and says it is the best decision he’s ever made.

He said: “I used to be a production worker but was also a 1-2-1 mental health support worker for a local private company last year, when I was notified by a colleague at the time that the Trust were looking for a new role they were developing.

After reading the advert and job description on the NHS jobs website, I realised that as I had lived experience of mental health issues, it was the ideal job for me. It was also a bonus to work for the NHS.

I still experience depression and anxiety, which make you feel like you’re on a never-ending journey with no destination. In my first meeting with an individual, I say that recovery is living well in the presence of mental-ill health.

Brett added:

I find the job rewarding because I’m in a unique position within the team where I can say to people: ‘It’s OK, I’ve got some understanding of that and I’ve been in a similar situation to what you’re going through now'.

This helps them feel more comfortable knowing that there are people out there who have struggled through their own problems and that they themselves feel listened to. It all comes down to me being able to help and support people who are struggling with their own mental health issues. I want to use my own experiences to give them hope and maybe then they can find some inspiration by looking at me and thinking that recovery is possible.

Manjit Darby, executive lead director for mental health at NHS England (Central Midlands), said:

Anyone can be affected by mental illness, and at any point in their lives. Mental health problems represent the largest single cause of disability in the UK.

NHS England aims to transform mental health services by 2020/21, with an ambition of putting mental health on an equal footing to physical health in the NHS.

Peer support workers are a great example of how Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is helping people to recover from their mental health problems and improve their quality of life.”

World Mental Health Day, which is held every year on 10 October, provides an opportunity for people who work in mental health to talk about their work and what more needs to be done to make good mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

This year's theme, set by the World Federation for Mental Health, is mental health in the workplace. For more information, visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk