March 30

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Features of Effective Peer Support Programs

Features of Effective Peer Support Programs. More industries and organisations are now reaching towards Peer Support Programs as a cost-effective strategy to help enhance organisational health and wellbeing. Peer supporters are carefully selected, trained and supervised coworkers, who can champion your workplace wellbeing initiatives, act as a ‘referral point’ and provide basic support and mental health first aid for peers. Peer support programs benefit employees, organisations and the peer-supporters.

Developing a team of peer supporters in your own workforce can build your organisation’s capacity to deliver mental health and wellbeing programs and preparedness for critical incidents. 


CHECKLIST: Features of Effective Peer Support Programs

Management Support:

  • Gaining visible and ongoing leadership support
  • Building a positive ‘peer supporter’ brand and communicating the benefits
  • Leaders are educated on the benefits of the program and encourage access to peer supporters

Governance and quality assure mechanisms, such as:

  • Written code of conduct
  • Formal selection and induction process
  • Protocol for selection, continuity and dis-continuity of peer supporters
  • Activity reporting
  • Feedback mechanisms
  • Supervision sessions with a mental health professional
  • Program evaluation and continuous improvement

Training and Supervision

  • Formal foundation skills training, covering critical topics, such as:
    • The role and responsibilities of the peer supporter
    • Ethics and boundaries – confidentiality, neutrality and professional behaviours
    • Mental health and Psychological First Aid basics
    • Managing people in crisis
    • Self-awareness
    • Peer Supporter conversations and active listening
    • Self-care and switching off skills
    • Handling conflicts of interest
    • How to promote the program and its benefits
  • Ongoing regular top-up training and self-care check-ins
  • Supervision from a clinically trained mental health professional
Culture and Credibility
  • The program gains credibility and a positive reputation over time
  • The peer supporters are viewed as trustworthy and confidential
  • Peer supporters feel valued, supported and capable in the role
  • People at work talk positively about the program and talking with a peer supporter
  • Feedback and data about program utilization, visibility and outcomes point to a vitalized and engaged program

Why are organisations moving towards implementing peer support programs as a ‘first line of support’? CLICK TO READ

We know that peer support programs facilitate connection and at its grass roots, supports people helping others.  Peer supporters are not therapists or psychologists. They are regular employees who choose to become a part of the program to support their workmates, working in various jobs at all levels of an organisation. When implemented in the right way, peer supporters are trained, highly valued by their colleagues and widely utilised.

By providing a structured system where peers feel confident and comfortable to check -in with their fellow workmates, the stigma associated with accessing assistance is actively broken down. Furthermore, peers understand the work culture of the workplace and are easily accessible. They are also often the first to notice the subtle changes in a colleague’s behaviour and therefore are in an ideal position to check-in and to provide confidential informal support in a non-threatening way. Having a trusted colleague readily available will often help those who may be struggling to actively reach out for assistance when perhaps otherwise they would not.


WHAT ORGANISATIONS ARE SAYING

“We have noticed a shift in our organisational culture in relation to talking about mental health”
“There has been an increase in people accessing support early”

WHAT EMPLOYEES ARE SAYING

“I have a real connection with my peers and find it easy to reach out when I need it”
“I can be really honest. I don’t report to them and the relationship feels more equal”
“The fact that the organisation is supporting this program demonstrates that they care about my wellbeing”

WHAT PEER SUPPORTERS ARE SAYING

“I feel like I am making a difference and now have the confidence to reach out to my workmates”
“Sometimes people don’t need counselling, they just need support of their colleagues, and I can make real a difference”
“I have always naturally wanted to help others, but now with the training and support of the program, I feel like I have the skills and confidence to do this more effectively”


We have specialised experience in the design, delivery and quality management of peer support programs. We’re happy to talk with you about reviewing, enhancing or building a program for your organisation.  READ MORE


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