Peer support has existed in behavioral health for decades. Its rapid growth in recent years is for good reason. Research and experience show that peer support specialists have a transformative effect on both individuals and systems. Peer support has been shown to:
- Improve quality of life,
- Improve engagement and satisfaction with services and supports,
- Improve whole health, including chronic conditions like diabetes,
- Decrease hospitalizations and inpatient days, and
- Reduce the overall cost of services
People with serious mental illness are increasingly turning to popular social media, including Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, to share their illness experiences or seek advice from others with similar health conditions. This emerging form of unsolicited communication among self-forming online communities of patients and individuals with diverse health concerns is referred to as peer-to-peer support. We offer a perspective on how online peer-to-peer connections among people with serious mental illness could advance efforts to promote mental and physical wellbeing in this group.
DBSA Peer Support Article
Research on peer support programs has shown that participation in these services yields improvement in psychiatric symptoms and decreased hospitalization (Galanter, 1988); larger social support networks (Rappaport et al., 1992); enhanced self-esteem and social functioning (Markowtiz, DeMasi, Knight, & Solka, 1996); and decreased lengths of hospital stays, as well as lower services costs overall, (Dumont & Jones, 2002).