PEER PARTNERS PROGRAM
A peer-driven solution to ending isolation and social exclusion
Mental Health America’s Peer Partners program helps those struggling with some of the biggest challenges that face us today -- isolation and social exclusion. Isolation and loneliness are leading risks for overall poor health. Research shows that loneliness can cause the same amount of damage as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
The COVID-19 pandemic also proves that isolation and social exclusion are costly for all. Despite these known challenges, many organizations do not know how to address loneliness in their communities.
Our Peer Partners support group model is a free, easy-to-implement program that combines the strengths of peer support, psychiatric rehabilitation, and self-directed care. We place a heavy focus on peer support.
The goal of Peer Partners is to help build networks of friends and close relationships. It does this by a peer specialist working with each member to develop a social plan. This social plan describes the life the members would like to achieve. It also identifies the changes they are willing to make to achieve it. Social connectivity creates opportunities for having a life that is meaningful to them.
The members work together to achieve their social goals. This helps to normalize the experience. They are able to receive support from one another and their peer specialist. A strong social support system is important for individuals in recovery. At the end of our program, there was a 51% increase in members who felt connected to their support networks.
With over 100 years of advocacy and awareness, Mental Health America understands the unique needs of those facing mental health challenges. We believe that peer support is essential when building thriving communities -- no one should have to struggle alone.
In our pilot program, 61% of the participants wanted one thing - to make friends. We know that there is a definite need for a safe connection. Our Peer Partners program places value on shared lived experiences in a non-judgmental setting. Sharing lived experiences helps people feel accepted, understood, and valued. These feelings are often not found in most therapeutic relationships. Over 50% of participants felt more connected to their support networks after our program using our model.
Peer Partners is an innovative method for those wanting to increase their organization’s availability of peer support. It is also an excellent way to keep implementation costs low, which is good news for our affiliates, partners, and networks. Participants feel connected and supported by their Peer Coach. They also receive support from the larger group. Connection over shared interests is an essential factor of Peer Partners. This support:
- creates a safe space to practice social skills;
- provides feelings of compassion and togetherness; and
- helps people cope with social challenges.
Peer Partners helps people set and reach social and personal goals. We use the Personal Outcome Measure© (POM) tool developed by the Council on Quality and Leadership. This survey measures how individuals rate their quality of life, such as:
- Do they interact with their environment and the wider community?
- Do they feel connected to their support networks?
- Are they happy with their friendships and intimate relationships?
- Do they feel respected and valued?
- Can they exercise their rights?
At the end of our pilot, we saw tremendous increases in how participants rated their quality of life.
RELATIONSHIP AND CONNECTION
- 61% of participants felt like they had more friends and intimate relationships.
- There was a 51% increase in participants who felt connected to their support networks.
COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENT
- 4 in 5 participants were better able to meaningfully use their environments.
- 61% of participants were able to interact with others in their community in different social roles.
- There was a 72% increase in participants who were able to take part in the life of their community.
RIGHTS, RESPECT, AND FAIRNESS
- 86% of participants felt that they were better able to exercise their rights.
- Over 70% of participants reported they felt like they received fairness.
- At the end of our program, participants reported feeling respected.
- Participants became more aware of their ability to set personal goals.
- They realized how many goals, in the past, were set for them.
Mental Health America thanks Janssen Pharmaceuticals for their support in making this program possible. For more information about this program, please contact Patrick Hendry, Vice President of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services, at firstname.lastname@example.org.