Peer support for women with mental health issues (2011)

From 2009-11 WCHM completed a research project to document good practice peer support models, presented in the report Peer support for women living with mental health issues. In particular the research set out to explore the need for and experiences of peer support programs for women living with a mental health issue in the ACT. The research found that peer support improves participant’s mental health and wellbeing, including examples of decreasing symptoms. Peer support increases self-esteem and confidence, increases social support networks and reduces isolation through building supportive relationships with others and connecting with the broader community through new activities. The research found that peer support is a form of health promotion as it positively influenced participant’s health and wellbeing by increasing their confidence, building skills in advocacy and communication and empowering them to ‘take control’ over their health. Peer support also educates members about the causes and impacts of stigma and builds knowledge about how to navigate the mental health system. This research is a contribution to the growing body of research on the effectiveness of peer support and is unique in that it highlights the context of mental health, the ACT and the importance of gender sensitive practice.