Sussex launch for UK’s first book on Peer Support in Mental Health

An audience of 70 mental health professionals, service users and others gathered at the Shoreham Centre on Tuesday 30 April to welcome the launch of Peer Support in Mental Health, the UK’s first book on the subject. 

Authored and edited by Sussex Partnership consultant clinical psychologist, Sara Meddings, and Emma Watson, peer support development lead at Nottinghamshire Healthcare, the book explores peer support, an emerging approach to mental health, and features contributions from leading peer support experts from across the country.

Peer support is support provided and received by people who have their own experiences of distress and recovery. It flips the narrative of expertise on its head, turning mental health problems into an asset and challenging power relations.

Publication is timely as the number of peer workers employed in the NHS and mental health services has increased significantly in recent years. Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Nottinghamshire Healthcare were among the first trusts in the country to pioneer formal peer support roles in the UK. Sussex Partnership now employs 25 peer support workers and 38 peer trainers and is fortunate to be home to two peer-led organisations, CAPITAL and Recovery Partners. More peers also work with other voluntary sector organisations. 

Research evidence shows that peer support increases hope, confidence, empowerment and social functioning and reduces stigma and hospital admissions. Alongside Sara and Emma, 12 additional authors have contributed chapters, all of whom bring their own lived experience of mental health to their writing about peer support.

At the launch, the authors spoke passionately about their reasons for getting involved with the book and how writing aided their own recoveries. 

Chapters explore:

• What peer support is

• Evidence and politics

• Peer support in different settings with different groups of people such as recovery college, family friends and carers, people from BAME and LGBT communities

• How all staff, not just peers, can use lived experience as an asset

• Training and good practice in employing peers and the value of peer-led services. 

In introducing her chapter, Eleanor Hope, peer support specialist and director of Hope Matters, said: “We need to recognise the implications of race, gender, class and sexuality and its impact on how you access mental health services and receive support. Best practice in developing peer support needs to better understand and address multiple forms of marginalisation and exclusion.’

Samantha Allen, Chief Executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, said: “It is testament to the leading role that Sussex Partnership plays in advancing mental health care that eight of our colleagues and partners have made a significant contribution to this important book on Peer Support. As a Teaching and University NHS Trust, we take great pride in developing new approaches and sharing them with the wider mental health care community.  

“The 25 Peer Support Workers operating within our services all have lived experience of mental health problems and/ or learning disability. It is through this personal experience that they are able to offer support and hope to others, making a huge difference to people’s recovery. Through the publication of this book, I hope colleagues across mental health care will learn the value of peer support and incorporate it into the way they work.”

Joy Harrod was a patient on a psychiatric ward when she first came into contact with a peer support worker. She says: “I became a Peer Support Worker because I was lucky enough to meet a peer support worker who worked on a psychiatric ward on which I was a patient. I told her I would have loved to do a role like hers but there was no hope for me. She gave me a seedling of hope which I worked on and grew and I am now doing my dream job and loving life. I don’t think that I would be in this position if it wasn’t for the peer support worker and staff on the ward encouraging me to hold on and believe that I was more than my illness. Recovery is possible – Life is possible.”

Sara Meddings, co-author and editor of the book and consultant clinical psychologist at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said “It has been a real privilege to work with all the authors of this book. Every one of them has been generous in sharing their expertise in peer support. Each of them has presented new insights and ways of looking at peer support.”

Dr Julie Repper, Director of ImROC said: “The first UK text that focuses on peer support, this book manages to combine an intellectual, research based approach with sensitive values, leading to a text that is accessible and practical.”

Howard Pearce, D.Phil. (Recovery Partners) said: “When I heard that a book on peer support was being planned, I was delighted to be asked to be one of the authors. As a person who has worked in peer support and helped to set up a user-led organisation employing peer support workers, I hope that my experience will be of value to others.”

Waldo Roeg, Senior Peer Trainer at the Recovery and Wellbeing College and contributor to the book said: “This book offered me the opportunity to be a part of a genuinely coproduced piece on the impact of peer support in recovery colleges. Working as a peer alongside a practitioner is an integral part of developing services for the future. 

“This book sets out how Peer Support and the use of lived experience has become an integral part of Mental Health services. It is so important that the next generation of mental health professionals recognise the value of Peer Support and this book offers the most up to date understanding of this new discipline.”

The book is £24.99 and it is available at the following website: https://www.macmillanihe.com/page/detail/Peer-Support-in-Mental-Health/?K=9781352005066