Another Episode of Peer Work from Across the Pond….
Being a peer support worker is an occupational health nightmare. Luckily I tend to think of myself as a bit of a martyr, so I managed to stick it out for a couple of years. I worked in the NHS in an employability setting. The main issues I had could be categorised under the following:
- Conflict around my identity as a mentally ill person, my diagnosis and my legitimacy as a peer to people who were accessing services I had not yet accessed
When I was a peer worker I had never been with the CMHT as a patient. I has a brief stint at CAMHS when I was 15 where I was mostly told to take baths and sing Belinda Carlisle. I had face to face CBT when I was 19, and had been on and off SSRIs for the 4 years or so since then. Despite having clear barriers to work and education, my own doctors didn’t think I needed help when things were at their worst. I was encouraged to quit jobs rather than find the right support to sustain them, which is in itself a sign of the massive gap in societal privilege between healthcare providers and those they support. That is why I was drawn to being a peer in an employment setting, as most of my barriers had been due to negative attitudes of educators and employers.
Despite these clear barriers I was facing, I did not share the experience of those in the service I worked in as a peer.