The Power of Peer Support: collaboration at the heart

26th November 2020

In this guest blog Hayley Chandler, Edinburgh’s Peer Collaborative Coordinator, describes the role and purpose of the Peer Collaborative and introduces their peer support films which can be used to promote and develop peer support.

The Peer Collaborative

Peer Collaborative is a network for Peer Workers in Edinburgh. Over the past 2 years, we have been working together to strengthen peer work in Edinburgh. This has been through organising and providing courses and workshops; providing opportunities for people to complete a Professional Development Award in Mental Health Peer Support; providing networking opportunities; and sharing information on what is happening in the city and in the rest of Scotland.

Experts by Experience: Values Framework for Peer Working that was developed by the Scottish Recovery Network has sat centrally within all of this work. It was felt to be important from the beginning that while we were locally focused, that our work must reflect that Edinburgh’s peer workers are also part of a national and global movement.

Side by Side: The Power of Peer Support

At the end of last year, we worked together on a short film called Side by Side: The Power of Peer Support. We wanted the film to showcase the amazing peer work that was happening in the city of Edinburgh, in the words of the peer workers themselves.

The film was made by Media Education, whose method was to let the message and focus of the film unfold through the stories of the peers in the film – to make the film tell the story of the people in it rather than attempting to script the message and story.

The people who were approached to be interviewed were chosen to represent a range of different experiences of peer work. Some were in paid roles; some in voluntary roles; others more informal. Some facilitate groups while others work 1:1 with people. Despite the different roles and experiences, there was an overwhelming sense of commonality between the peers when they spoke about what they do and the impact they see it having. There was also so much great material from the interviews that Media Education ended up making 6 additional mini-films to go alongside the 15-minute film we originally asked for. These additional films focus on some people individually.

We would love for people to use these films for educational and social media purposes in order to promote a better understanding of peer work and its impact. The films are all available on YouTube so please feel free to use them! So far we’ve hosted a couple of screenings and discussions centered around the main film as well as some lunchtime online sessions centered around the shorter ones.

Our premier in February was to a room packed full of peer workers – it seems like a long time ago now that we could all be together! At each event, we have shown the film and then asked people to discuss questions relating to themes in the film. We then shared a summary of the ideas that people shared in the Peer Collaborative newsletter so that people who hadn’t been able to join us could still be a part of the conversation.  You can have a read of some of the discussions that were had in some of our old newsletters.

As well as being useful tools for discussion, the films can also be used to help people who are unfamiliar with peer work better understand its impact and uniqueness. This might be a useful aid for people who are maybe being referred to a peer work service,  for other mental health professionals who perhaps have not worked with peers workers in their team or organisation before, or for GPs and other workers who link people into sources of help and support.

You can also watch the shorter version or the individual stories of VivekMaggiLauraPaul, Alexis, and Sineaid on the Health in Mind YouTube channel. We hope you enjoy the films and use them!