MHCC Making the Case for Peer Support

Over 600 individuals from across Canada took part in focus groups and interviews. Another 220 people offered their input through written and online surveys. Together, this wide variety of people living with mental health problems and illnesses have worked together to create this report. Together, we want to share with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), and Canadians who look to the Commission for leadership, our experiences with peer support — to describe it, to make the case for it and to make recommendations on how the Commission can join with us to support its development. We also reviewed Canadian and international research, government policy statements, evaluation reports and other “grey” literature. This report describes what we heard and learned from many sources and many people. Peer support works. Peer support is effective. People with lived experience of mental health problems or illnesses can offer huge benefits to each other. We found that the development of personal resourcefulness and self-belief, which is the foundation of peer support, can not only improve people’s lives but can also reduce the use of formal mental health, medical and social services. By doing so, peer support can save money. Canadian research has contributed significantly to our knowledge base. Several experimental and quasi-experimental studies have demonstrated not only the benefits to individuals involved, but also to the mental health system and communities as a whole, by saving millions of tax-payers dollars through reducing the use of the most expensive types of services.