To read this content please select one of the options below:

A helping hand: taking peer support into the 21st century

Alison Faulkner (Independent Mental Health Researcher, London, UK)
Thurstine Basset (Independent Trainer and Consultant, Brighton, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 24 February 2012




The purpose of this paper is to review current perspectives on peer support in mental health informed by service user perspectives.


The paper is informed by a literature review and consultations with five groups of service users engaged in different forms of peer support.


The findings suggest that there are many benefits to service users from engaging in peer support. These include: shared identity; development and sharing of skills; increased confidence; improved mental health and wellbeing; and the potential for challenging stigma and discrimination. Most difficulties encountered were associated with “intentional peer support”, where service users are employed as peer support workers – these included role conflict, setting boundaries, and ensuring adequate training and support. A key theme that divided opinion was the degree to which peer support should be “professionalised” as part of statutory services.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that it is vital to acknowledge the different views about peer support that arise in different service user and voluntary sector groups: views about such core issues as payment, equality, and professionalisation. Ultimately, peer support arises from people wanting to create their own support networks; any plans to formalise it from within statutory services need to acknowledge that pre‐existing grassroots expertise.


Recent developments mean that peer support, which originated from the grassroots of service user experience, has taken a new direction through becoming incorporated into statutory services. This paper looks at some of the benefits and pitfalls of these developments informed by the views of service users.



Faulkner, A. and Basset, T. (2012), "A helping hand: taking peer support into the 21st century", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 41-47.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles