The Peer Community is a part of Thrive Edinburgh and organised by The Peer Partnership – a partnership between Health in Mind and CAPS Independent Advocacy. We’re here to support and enable people with lived experience of mental health challenges and recovery to intentionally use their experiences to accompany others through their recovery. Our aim is to strengthen peer practice in Edinburgh.
At the bottom of this page you will find ways to contact us and stay informed on what is happening in the Peer Community, as well as a link to our upcoming meetings, courses and workshops.
My Peer Journey Through Edinburgh
Elspeth, one of Edinburgh’s new Thrive Welcome Team Workers, shares how she moved into peer work. You can find out more about Thrive Edinburgh on their website.
My journey began in 2019 when I saw that Health in Mind were looking for fundraising volunteers to collect money during the Edinburgh Festivals. My own mental health history had given me a strong desire to support a relevant charity and I love to extract money out of tourists, so it was a win-win situation. During my introduction to Health in Mind I found out about peer work: a chance to use my lived experience of mental health struggles and recovery to support and empower others – sign me up!
The training to be a peer support volunteer was thorough, thought-provoking and actually a bit fun. There was a small group of us learning side-by-side, sharing experiences and practicing our listening skills on one another. My fellow peer support trainees were lovely, empathetic people and I knew I had found a special community.
After my training I started volunteering one-to-one with a person who was experiencing anxiety and depression just as I had and, sometimes, still do. It felt good to connect with someone who knew I understood what she was going through. No two experiences of mental illness are the same but there is a mutual understanding between peers that is unsurpassable.
I think there is sometimes concern that a person with lived experience of mental health struggles will reopen wounds if they talk about it. For me, it is quite the opposite. Relating to others and self reflection allow me to keep on top of my mental health. Engaging in peer work helps me see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learnt about myself and things I can still improve.
The first person I supported gradually stopped turning up to sessions. This was disappointing and, of course, a source of self doubt. Had I done really badly? It was a valuable lesson in letting someone go. It wasn’t my fault, it was just the natural ending.
Next stop on my journey was the 5 Day Peer Work Course run by The Peer Community. I would recommend this highly to anyone Edinburgh-based that is interested in peer work. The course reinforced things I knew, taught me fresh facts and invited me to think about things in a different way. Once again I was learning alongside a group of lovely people which made the experience even more valuable. Luckily, we completed the course just before lockdown and I had endless, jobless months to complete my PDA in Mental Health Peer Support. I still managed to procrastinate quite a bit but I achieved it in the end. Got a certificate and everything.
In the autumn of 2020 I decided I fancied a change and asked to switch from one-to-one support to group peer work. I did a bit of training through Zoom with my new manager and quickly felt ready to join in. It is no lie to say that co-facilitating the Anxiety and Depression Group is often the highlight of a week. It is magical to witness people supporting each other in an honest, empathic and often funny way. Even through Zoom and the often persistent lockdown feeling of doom, the connection and hope of peer work is still there.
All of these amazing opportunities and the wonderful people I’ve linked with have led me to the job I now have as a Thrive Peer Worker. I work as part of a multi-disciplinary Welcome Team; using my experiences of mental health to help others and to help shape the new Thrive model in Edinburgh.
Our Focus for 2021
Our aim is to strengthen peer practice in Edinburgh.
In our January consultation event, we asked people what strong peer practice looks like. They answered –
- Peer spaces and services with shared values
- An empowered collective voice
- Welcoming, safe and well facilitated groups and services
- An appreciation and understanding of peer practice amongst organisations and other professionals
- Well supported Peer Workers who are encouraged to practice self care
- Accessible services
- Properly funded services
Based on the above and other conversations at the consultation event, our key areas of interest are –
- Building awareness and understanding of peer practice
- Challenging stigma surrounding mental health challenges and lived experience
- Promoting accessibility in peer spaces
Side by Side – The Power of Peer Support
The Side by Side – The Power of Peer Support short film discusses the value of lived experience and peer work. The film features peer workers based in Edinburgh sharing their experience of this approach to mental health support and the potential future they see for this powerful approach to recovery. The Peer Work Values featured in the film were developed by The Scottish Recovery Network.
We are passionate about promoting peer practice as a unique and powerful way of aiding mental health recovery. We are very happy for people to use these films for educational and social media purposes in order to promote better understanding of peer practice and its values. We ask that The Peer Collaborative (now The Peer Community) be credited when doing so.
Professional Development Award in Mental Health Peer Support
The course and PDA are both free to attend/complete and can equip you with the knowledge, skills and values which are necessary to carry out this role with confidence.
Following on your 5-day Peer Work Course, you can complete a Professional Development Award (PDA) in Mental Health Peer Support. Upcoming courses can be found in the Courses and Workshops section below.
The PDA recognises, develops and celebrates the skills of those currently working and volunteering in Peer Work roles and those wishing to get their first Peer Work role.
Support is offered throughout and evidence of learning and its application to your practice is offered through written evidence.
Please email email@example.com for more information.