Peer Support: What is it, and Why Does it Matter?
If you are facing a challenging situation, who do you turn to? Your first instinct may be to reach out to someone with similar experience. This kind of help is called peer support. Peer support is available for people of all ages with varying needs. Youth Peer Support Workers are adolescents with a self-identified history of mental illness who use their experiences to help others. They go through specialized training that teaches them how to use their experiences to help their peers
What exactly does a Youth Peer Support Worker (YPS) do?
- Provides one-on-one support to help youth navigate services, supports, and ask for the help they need.
- Hosts peer support groups and coordinates community events for young people.
- Shares personal stories to promote recovery.
- Connects youth to community based service and may serve as a bridge between the youth and their practitioners.
- Fights against mental health stigma.
- Tasks may vary from program to program!
How does Youth Peer Support help?
Peer Support is newly studied in comparison to other mental health treatments, but there is evidence that proves that it does help. There is no doubt that an adult has the experience to provide helpful advice to teens. Overall it is much easier for most teens to trust someone their age. You may feel like an adult would not understand what it is like to be a young person experiencing hardship. The teenage experience changes from one generation to the next; a peer would understand this better. Research proves that the support of a Youth Support Worker: increases social support and functioning, increases confidence, decreases depression, psychotic symptoms, and substance use, increases hope and participation in self-care, and reduces hospital visits.
Did you know that SOVA uses the idea of peer support?
About a third of our articles are written by young people themselves and our own research has shown young people who write for SOVA seem to feel higher self-esteem and more competent and confident in themselves. This means that using your own experiences to help others may help you as well as them! If you are interested in blogging for SOVA, click on the link above.
Do you want to receive peer support services?
Start by asking your doctor, therapist, or social worker for more information. If you’re in Pittsburgh, check out UpStreet, an organization that provides free counseling to Pittsburgh adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12-24. Additionally UpStreet provides Youth Peer Support Services, which you can apply for here on their site. Young people ages 17-22 can sign up to be a Peer Support Mentor using that same link!
Have you received Peer Support services in the past? Would you be interested in providing Peer Support services to other youth in your community?