Peer Support Projects

[Project status: In progress]

Project summary 

The therapeutic value of working from the perspective of  lived experience of mental distress, of using services and of supporting friends and family is increasingly being recognised within mental health services around the world.  An increase in the prominence of peer support roles has long been called for by people with personal experience of mental health conditions and others supporting recovery-focused mental health service provision.  There is now a national drive to expand the peer support workforce across England.  Roles are rapidly diversifying within both statutory and third sector services and an increasing range of interventions are being offered.  However, little is known about experiences of peer supporters themselves, how they are integrated into the workforce and what forms of peer support may be most valued by people using services.  The aim of this linked group of projects is to develop an understanding of the roles of peer support workers in mental health services across England and what the national picture of peer support work looks like.  In order to do this, we are conducting a group of projects. Two are already in progress:

  1. We are conducting an umbrella review (systematic review of systematic reviews) of scientific literature on mental health peer support. Our aim is to provide a broad overview of the current state of evidence relevant to mental health peer support across sectors and conditions, and to identify significant evidence gaps.  The protocol for this review is here
  2. We are carrying out a qualitative study, with our Lived Experience Working Group members centrally involved in planning, data collection and analysis and writing up, to investigate peer support workers' experiences across the UK mental health care sector. We are trying to understand how they experience their roles, the support they get, the way they fit into teams and the improvements they think might be helpful. Interviews are currently in progress and initial findings should be available by the end of June 2023.

We are also considering following on from this conducting a rapid realist review of what works for whom in telemental health, and a national survey of peer support workers in mental health.