Peer to peer support has been recognized and utilized to treat all sorts of personal health and wellbeing issues since the 1960’s. New social media platforms are allowing the benefits of this important form of support to find a renewed strength. So what is it exactly?
We can look at peer-to-peer support as the help and encouragement that people with a lived experience are able to give one another. It creates a trust and empathy built on shared personal experience and has shown to provide a feeling of connectedness and belonging. Participants of peer-to-peer services have reported that is has been of great help in coping with day to day challenges.
So how are online platforms improving this form of help and support? The first way is that people who are going through a difficult or traumatic life experience can find and connect with others who are going through something similar in a much easier and safer way. The internet allows people to search for like-minded groups, and individuals with the protection that online anonymity provides. It allows someone to explore discussions and ideas without exposing themselves until they are ready.
In days before the internet was so accessible, finding support like this might have entailed finding an organization running local self help groups, attending at a designated time, and really putting yourself out there in one huge leap. It may have meant exposing yourself to other people in your community, and sharing personal information with people you may not want to know such things about you. For many this would be a daunting experience, and may stop someone who was feeling very anxious or vulnerable from seeking such help.
Now, with social media, online platforms, email services and online chat rooms someone feeling vulnerable can explore different areas and slowly reach out as they become more and more comfortable.
By connecting and learning from others who have been through similar challenges, it can greatly help someone develop a sense of personal empowerment, and shun the shame or stigma that may have accompanied their situation.
They may be able to discuss different forms of support or therapy freely without feeling obliged to follow any prescribed path. They can find hope in the success of others.
Nobody suggests peer to peer support is a replacement for treatment of mental illness, or serious health issues, however there are multiple studies that have shown peer to peer support to be a valid and powerful complimentary form of support that greatly helps people on their journey towards being able to deal with their life challenges.
Every day people have to find ways of dealing with life challenges like relationship breakdown, loss of a loved one, chronic illness, mental health issues, anxiety, self doubt, childhood trauma, abuse, addiction. The list of challenges we all face at some time in our lives is as long and varied as we are. By finding someone to talk to who has been through a similar experience may be of incredible help to someone who is feeling that they are all alone, and no-one else is going through what they are going through.
The reality is, most of the challenges in life we all face are not new, and many people have been through it before. We have family and friends to talk to about many things, but often discussing serious challenges is not possible with our friends and family. Ingrained prejudices, religious barriers, generational differences, mixed loyalties, all are many reasons why talking to close friends and family is not possible. With many issues it may help to discuss these issues with peers who have been there before you to find the best way to handle your situation.
Acceptance, hope, validation are what we all need when going through life’s challenges. Sometimes it is our peers who may just be the best way to help us start our journey towards healing.
If you would like to connect with any of our Darma’s that can support you through a difficult time, please follow our link to here to Kindarma.