Our peer support program provides family members with information and explanations of the illnesses – what the illnesses are and what to expect – personal support, understanding through others’ experiences, emergency advice, and recommendations on how to deal with the system.
This is one-on-one counselling, given freely without an eye on the clock. Meetings usually take place in the Centre or by telephone, including contact after hours if an unexpected development occurs. The support is provided by someone who knows the ropes and, equally important, understands the tumultuous feelings families are often contending with because he or she, being a family member, has gone through the same kinds of experiences.
Difficulties and issues are discussed from the same practical, front-line perspective – the most important having to do with getting an ill relative or friend into treatment, including involuntary committal where indicated. Problems with the system are put into context and suggestions made for dealing with them. Departures from best practices by professionals when they occur – for example, not sharing information with families – are addressed.
Peer support draws on the shared experiences of society members and their often detailed background knowledge, as well as our relationships with a network of other mental health-related organizations. In the end, what makes peer support and counselling most meaningful and useful is that it comes from peers. Everyone is in the same boat – it’s families helping families.