Where does peer support come from?
Peer support does not only work for students. More generally, it means
A kind of service where people share and benefit from their mutual experiences.
Informal peer support has always existed and often naturally takes place in our everyday personal relationships.
The first time structured peer support came up was when Alcoholics Anonymous was created in the USA in 1935 (source : A review of the literature on peer support in mental health services”, J. Repper and. T Carter, Journal of Mental Health, 20:4 (2011)). The idea was that people who had overcome an addiction to alcohol could in turn, thanks to their own experiences, support those trying to overcome their addiction.
In the USA, since its first appearance in the 1930s, peer support has expanded so much so that there are twice as many peer support programmes dedicated to mental disorders as professional psychiatric structures!
What are the advantages?
For the student community, peer support:
Enables us to reach those who are not used to seek help from professionals and to link them to these structures
Reduces psychological distress, exhaustion, suicidal thoughts as well as the feeling of loneliness which is a key factor for psychological angst among students
Enables us to normalise talking about mental health between peers
More widely, peer support means
- Fighting stigmatisation of mental disorders
- Opening up talks about well-being and mental health
- Weaving a social network strengthening the cohesion among students