Contact with peers in mental health care


People with mental vulnerability can find support and recognition from each other. Sharing experiences with people who have gone through similar challenges can have a beneficial effect on the recovery process.
 
However, the added value of this kind of peer contact is still undervalued in current mental health practice. However, studies show both direct and indirect positive effects, even when organised outside the traditional care context.
 
The Superior Health Council does stress the need for a structural framework, especially when there is more and more formal counselling in which one expert by experience actively supports other patients. This framework serves both to better protect patient and counsellor and to guarantee the quality of counselling. A recognised statute, in which any compensation can also be laid down, is needed to further professionalise the organisation of peer contacts.
 
This advice offers tools for policymakers and healthcare providers to recognise and integrate peer contact in mental healthcare. For example, the Superior Health Council urges to

  • invest in training for peer contact counsellors,
  • develop guidelines and quality standards for peer contact, and
  • create structural support mechanisms for the sector.
     

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