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People with mental health problems in Norfolk and Suffolk invited to use their expertise to help others
02/10/2014

People who have lived with mental health problems are being given the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge by training for jobs that see them using their experience to help others.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is looking to recruit Peer Support Workers in mental health services. The trust is preparing for its second Peer Support Worker training programme starting in November. 

Peer support is relatively new in the UK, but in Canada and the USA, Peer Support in its various forms has been a widely recognised resource since the 1960s. 

Research has shown that peer-run self-help groups deliver improvements in psychiatric symptoms resulting in less time in hospital, larger social support networks and enhanced self-esteem and social functioning.

The benefits of Peer Support are wide ranging for those receiving the support, peer support workers themselves, and for the mental health system as a whole. 

One of the key benefits of Peer Support is the greater perceived empathy and respect that peer supporters are seen to have for the individuals they support.

Peer Support also has benefits for peer support workers themselves, increasing levels of self-esteem, confidence and positive feelings that they are doing good. 

Peer support workers often experience an increase in their own ability to cope with mental health problems. Peer Support also benefits the health system as a whole as it can lead to decreases in hospital admissions for those taking part.

Applicants needs to complete the free, 12-week course (16 days) required to become a Peer Support Worker and the course includes a mixture of classroom-based learning and work-based placements. To be eligible to apply for a post applicants need to have completed a Peer Support Worker training course. Other organisations also deliver courses. 

Successful completion of the course means students will be eligible to apply for jobs that will be advertised early next year.  Short-listing for the training will take place week commencing 13 October and successful applicants will be invited to attend an interview week commencing 27 October. 

Lyn Skipper, the Trust's lead on recovery, said: "These roles are mutually beneficial as it gives the peer support workers the opportunity to gain employment and confidence in their own recovery journey, while acting as inspirational role model and source of support for others." 

Please telephone 01603 421169 or email recovery.college@nsft.nhs.uk for more information about the course.

Peer Support Worker Case Study

After receiving care and support for her depression, Brigitte is looking forward to helping others as a Peer Support Worker.

"I've suffered from recurring depression for most of my adult life and the condition has been particularly debilitating over the past eight years. I had to take long term sickness leave several times whilst working as a primary school teacher. My family have been my rock during my dark days and I can't emphasise enough how important they have been to my recovery. I've been under the care of the crisis team on several occasions, all of whom have been wonderful, and they managed to keep me out of hospital. 

"My most recent period of depression began in 2012. Fortunately I have a very supportive GP and she was quick to seek help from the Community Mental Health Team. My care coordinator from the Community Mental Health Team and my clinical psychologist have both been brilliant. I can honestly say that without them I wouldn't be where I am now. My psychologist recommended that I attend a course on mindfulness and I've become a complete convert. I practice the meditation techniques that I've learnt for 30 minutes each day and I find that this really helps me.

"I'm an avid reader and my psychologist introduced me to a whole new world of psychological theory. So when the opportunity arose to train as a Peer Support Worker, I felt ideally placed to do so. I've enjoyed meeting like-minded people on the course and I've found that the things I've learnt have enabled me to make more sense of my own recovery. Justine, the course coordinator, has been brilliant and it's reassuring to know that she will continue to act as a mentor to newly qualified Peer Support Workers when they take up their posts within the community. Now that I've qualified, I am looking forward to working within the Trust as a Peer Support Worker and make a difference to the lives of others."‚Äč