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Peer support was one of the main things that helped me out of this very difficult time.

Siobhan Hossack, a Project Manager at a mental health awareness and suicide prevention organisation, tells us what peer support means to her.

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As someone who has personally struggled with their own mental health, peer support has been something that has been crucial in my recovery. From June 2018 to June 2019, I hit a particularly difficult period with regards to the housing that I was in and it had a very detrimental effect on my mental health.

During this time it was difficult to know coping mechanisms and it was part of a journey of finding out what worked for me. Despite having the knowledge I have working in mental health and suicide prevention when it hit me personally, peer support, as I said, was absolutely crucial in my recovery.

There are many coping strategies and mechanisms online and part of your recovery of mental health is finding out what works best for you. Peer support was one of the main things that helped me out of this very difficult time. Talking to people and sharing my experiences with others helped lighten the load and not carrying the burden myself helped massively.

With many people when they struggle with mental health they feel like they’re a burden or other people will not understand what they are going through. Peer support gives you a chance and gives a chance for those who are struggling to share what they’ve been going through and how they feel without being judged or faced with any discrimination.

After working for a short time, after I recovered, I still found peer support very effective because as we know, you can be feeling well one minute and not well the next. Again peer support was really really important for the continued recovery that I made. We have found this to be really successful and would encourage others to include peer support. So they know they’re not alone and that people around them support and care for them.

Working in the third sector, for many years now, has opened my eyes to so many issues that people face today especially with their mental health. It’s only by sharing those experiences that we can help to better understand our feelings and process.

I like to share the backpack analogy when I am talking about mental health and peer support. Your backpack is full, its full of bricks and its full of stones and its heavy, its a heavy load on your back. What peer support does, it allows you to just lighten that load that you are carrying and by talking and sharing your emotions and what’s happening you are removing a stone and a brick at a time and when your load feels lighter you feel better.

Siobhan

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