Joanna: peer support and me

28th October 2020

Joanna Higgs a Development Worker with HUG / SPIRIT Advocacy tells us what peer support means to her.

My Peer Support and Recovery 

Hello, I have been taking part at HUG since it started 23-ish years ago, and worked 4 years for SPIRIT Advocacy, the umbrella company that includes HUG Action for Mental Health.

I believe collective advocacy it a requirement for ensuring fairness and justice in our communities, to build a society where every person has value and is supported to show that off, no matter what they have or don’t have, and are or are not. I have gained hugely from this kind of ‘enabling that creates value’.

What has that got to do with Peer and Recovery? 

Well I am sure that, through sitting at HUG, and other places, with people who have similar struggles, experiences, reactions, fears, and furies I have had my mind opened up to me. Through their stories and discussions, I got to hear about hope, improving understanding, success, and weird concepts like ‘balance’, ‘liking ourselves’, ‘being the expert on own lives’ and ‘not alone’. Collective advocacy gave me a chance to see the whole of me, not just the flaws, and to reduce the fear of those flaws, to reveal a not-too-shabby-quite-clever, useful, occasionally fun person who has illness that limits her from time to time, but never negates or diminishes her.

Collective advocacy doesn’t work when people who are frightened, bitter, and angry try to raise their voice to tell their stories and demand change. People don’t have much success being like that either.

I can now see how I have to transform my fear into determination, bitterness into understanding, and anger into courage and lots of common-sense speaking – and keep doing that for every challenge I reach; because my struggles never go away forever.

Collective advocacy showed me, and many of us, that any person can find the best way to contribute to trusting and to looking after ourselves. It’s the powerful way we get to show and tell the rest of the world, the best way to help and support us; through showing and telling each other how we help and support ourselves.

Collective advocacy success not only depends on people spouting what isn’t working and what it should be; it also depends on the understanding, guts and enough recovery of its participants to explore solutions with the rest of the world. At HUG, by committing to making change happen in our communities, we are finding help to grow ourselves too. We do not provide or create ‘cure’ or ‘normal-ness’; but we do generate fab gutsy people, able to be themselves and work with each other as a force.

That’s ‘peer’ and that’s ‘recovery’ in my book.

Every person deserves and has a right to be enabled to be the best they can be. Peer does that together, alongside professional help. Peer together can also help the rest of the world be the best they can be.

Peer is sharing; Recovery is liking what we learn and being that lesson. Peer and Recovery is Power.

– Joanna


Get involved

If you would like to contribute (written, filmed, audio, animation etc) to our Peer support and me series contact Christine Muir, Senior Communications Officer on or call 0141 240 7790 for more information.