Picture the scene. Here I am on an acute psychiatric inpatient ward, sat telling the psychiatrist that I have no hope. Nothing to live for. Imagine then, being given a gentle nudge, and I look at him through my tears and he says “Clare, I think you would make a very good peer support worker.”
The words flew over me, not quite knowing where to land, but right at that moment, a small seed of hope started to grow. I’m sure people don’t imagine inpatients completing application forms on a locked ward, egged on by the ward manager, but that’s exactly what happened……
Fast forward to now, five months later. I’ve completed the Peer Support Worker Training Course and submitted my assignment. I’m tempted to write that sentence out again as I can’t quite believe it myself! So why am I so amazed? Well there’s a few reasons really, one is that I had truly lost all hope. I felt that nobody could help me. Several sections and inpatient stays, numerous medications and some taking therapies, yet still I felt worthless and lost. I forgot who I was, and became somebody I didn’t know or like. I pushed everyone away no matter how well-meaning they were. I’d often walk out of courses and therapies as I either didn’t believe they would work, or it just felt too difficult. Then along came Peer Support. How strange and alien it felt, to sit in a room of people, many with shared experiences similar to my own. Then as I talked to others and shared some of my story, peer support became my new addiction.
How powerful and validating it is to sit and talk to someone who shares a direct lived experience. Just that knowing look and nod is sometimes enough.
As each day of the course went by, my confidence grew. Skills that had lay dormant for ages, were re-awakened in me and before long, I had a wonderful group of peers around me to learn and grow with. Of course, this isn’t a fairy tale (not quite) I did have the odd moments where the old ways of thinking would come back. ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I’m not good enough to do this.’ But with a supportive group of peers, some great life affirming tutors and trust staff that believed in me, I was encouraged to keep going. I silenced those critical voices and completed the course.
In addition, my view of recovery has totally changed. Now I know that for me, it’s not a linear journey. I take comfort from knowing that there are peaks and troughs. My social networks have grown, my peer support group have already been out for a great curry after the training, where we sat and gave each-other some great, organic peer support. So I’ve got more friends too now!
The ultimate thing for me personally is that I’ve found a passion again. I have learnt so much about myself, about recovery and about restoring hope in others. Peer support training for me, has been life changing. I hope to now work in the field of mental health as a Peer Support Worker and have just submitted my application to do so. That’s great isn’t it, but what is even more powerful is the fact that even if this first application is not successful, I know I will be.
I hadn’t heard about Peer Support until that life changing day on the ward. I hope that Peer Support grows and grows and lifts more people out of their darkness. I hope that more people like me can find their passion and purpose again. I hope that Peer Support becomes available to all that want and need it. Did I just say hope? What a wonderful word!
To find out more about the Institute of Mental Health’s Peer Support Worker training, and to watch our film, please visit our website: