Peer 2 Peer Wellness is a peer support program matching volunteers (“peer supporters”) with individuals (“peers) transitioning out of inpatient care at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.
Our peers and peer supporters develop mutually supportive relationships based on the values of hope and self-determination, and the belief that mental health recovery is possible for everyone.
How do I Qualify to be a Volunteer Peer Supporter?
Our Peer Supporters need to:
self-identify as a person with lived experience of mental health challenges
successfully complete 30 hours of peer support training
meet with their peer 1-3 hours a week for at least 6 months
provide us with a police records check
complete Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Training (this requires approximately one hour, and can be done after being matched with a peer)
Beyond these requirements, our volunteers come with variety of educational, work, and life experiences. We welcome this and are proud of the diversity of strengths, skills, and perspectives our volunteers bring to the program.
What do you mean by “Lived Experience of Mental Health Challenges”?
We consider lived experience to mean that an individual has struggled with mental health challenges, typically over a number of years, and that this has had at least a moderate impact on their life. Many people face mental health challenges but have not been hospitalized, regularly seen a psychiatrist, or even taken medication. As such we focus on how you identify, not on certain experiences.
That said, we do expect that our volunteers are on their own journey of recovery. This doesn’t mean our peer supporters can’t have “bad days”; recovery is not a linear process and it is unique to each individual. We just ask that our volunteers have awareness of their own mental health triggers, and have taken steps to increase their own feelings of wellness.
What does your Peer Support Training entail?
Our training is approximately 30 hours including breaks and lunch (nutritious food is provided). It is typically offered two days a week over three weeks, but occasionally evening and/or weekend sessions may be available.
During the training we explore such topics as the history and context of peer support, communication skills, trauma-informed practice, how biases and judgements impact our relationships with others, suicide and crisis awareness and career opportunities in peer support.
What sorts of things do Peers and Peer Supporters do together?
While some peer matches talk primarily about wellness and recovery, other matches use their relationship as a recreational opportunity.
You can take walks together, go for lunch, check out a museum or art gallery, or just have coffee and talk.
What if I don’t have a clear Police Record?
We recognize that mental health challenges can at times contribute to incidents that may show up on your police record check.
If a police record check is returned to us and there is an incident reported, we are happy to meet with you and review this information on a case by case basis.
Can I request to be matched with a Peer who shares my Diagnosis?
Out of principle, we do not make matches solely on the basis of diagnosis. Rather than focusing on diagnostic labels, we match people based on their interests, what they’re hoping to get out of the relationship and any other specific criteria that are important to them (i.e. gender, age, location etc.).
Those of us who have struggles with our mental health often have similar experiences, regardless of diagnosis. Many of us have struggled with feelings of stigma or lack of acceptance, hopelessness, uncertainty about the future, and histories of trauma. Peers and peer supporters connect around these and countless other issues.
We learn about and from one another through the sharing of stories and the building of new experiences together. This is a process that takes place outside of the medical model and regardless of whether or not two people have been placed in the same diagnostic category.
Where can I get Support?
This sounds like a great opportunity, but it might be challenging at times! Where can I get support?
As a peer supporter, you have access to two program coordinators. We consider ourselves to be your peer supporters and are available to talk about any issues that may arise during your match. We also host bi-monthly meetings for peer supporters to meet, share ideas, and offer each other support.
We have seen strong connections and friendships build between our peer supporters, and are happy to be able to foster this sense of community.