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What is peer support?

Peer support is about people with a common experience supporting each other. As peer support workers, our goal is to empower young people and show them they are not alone in their struggles. We focus on recovery and healing. We offer understanding, emotional support, and acceptance whatever the circumstances.

It’s helpful to remember that we have our own experiences dealing with the mental health system. As peer support workers, we can use our knowledge to support other young people. We can help them advocate for themselves and find the resources they need.

Foundry’s virtual services recently introduced our peer support services, available to all youth in BC ages 12-24. All services are free and confidential! Our team is excited to offer follow ups and one-one one services as well as host groups on a variety of topics.

Let’s hear from the peer supporters themselves!

 

What made you interested in peer support in the first place?

Like many people, I first became interested in peer support work because of how healing peer support was for me. In some of the most difficult parts of my life, peer support helped me to realize that there were other people who were “like me” and who were not only surviving, but living well. Sometimes, they didn’t look like the picture of “normal” I was used to comparing myself to – but they were unabashedly cool people who modeled a future that I wanted and that, for the first time, felt possible to achieve. Meeting so many vibrant, tough, passionate people who had been through similar things and gone on to carve out a space for themselves in the world planted a seed of hope for me that things could be different and better – and now that things are different and better, I try to pay it forward in my work. Peers accepted me with open arms, exactly as I was, and lifted me up when others seemed ready to give up on me. That’s the kind of community I want to help build as a peer supporter.

-Rory, youth peer support worker

 

What is the best part of being a youth peer support worker?

I think that the best part of being in a peer support role, is seeing how much change can happen in just one session. Sometimes it’s the smallest little laugh or smile that comes from the youth after a difficult day; other times it’s feeling the trust that builds from the beginning to the end of our time together. From the very start, I feel honoured that a youth has chosen to open up to me, and share their struggles with someone they just met. With so much shame and secrecy surrounding mental health, it’s incredibly easy (yet painful) to keep things to ourselves. Being a witness to the transformation that can happen, helping them feel less alone or a slight bit of hope fills my heart, and reminds me why I do what I do.

-Sierra, youth peer support worker

 

How do I know if peer support is a good option for me?

When I first discovered peer support, I immediately knew it was a good option for me. Meeting others in recovery and sharing my lived experience was empowering and liberating. I think that if you’re currently struggling but are not ready to seek professional help just yet, you can take a small step forward by connecting with one of us, since we share similar experiences as you.

Additionally, I think peer support can be a wonderful addition if you’re already receiving services. I personally have seen many professionals overs the years and I have always had a soft spot for peer support!

-Daphnée, a youth peer support worker

 

What would you say to a young person who is struggling and afraid of seeking help for the first time?

To a young person who is unsure about accessing support: It’s okay to feel uncertain or afraid! Making the choice to speak with a peer supporter is a vulnerable one because it means talking about your own lived experiences. As peer supporters, we can engage with these experiences at a level you’re comfortable with, offer insight, and share our similar lived experiences so that you aren’t the only one showing vulnerability. We can also use the time to talk about shared hobbies, our day, what we’re watching on Netflix… The time is yours to be used as you feel would be most helpful.

-Paige, youth peer support worker

 

How do you engage in self-care after supporting others?

Engaging in self-care is important all the time, but especially so if we’re in a role of supporting others. My go-to self-care is probably putting on my diffuser with “After the Rain” essential oil, reading a light book while cuddling with my stuffed animals 🙂 That’s just one type of self-care I do though. For many people, something more physical, like running, working-out, and yoga are effective self-care. Others like to create, whether that be baking, painting, sculpting, writing, or choreographing. One that I feel embarrassed admitting is singing out loud with my headphones on and dancing it out in my room (when there’s no one around :P). Of course, eating well, sleeping well –  taking care of our basic needs is essential too. And the more complex needs can be addressed by finding an outlet, debriefing with co-workers, talking to friends, seeing a therapist, practicing mindfulness or connecting spiritually all contribute to us as a whole person.

-Anne, a youth peer support worker

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