Addressing Inclusion in Peer Support

Wed, 05/05/2021 – 11:12

By Kat McIntosh, Manger of Global Peer Support at Mental Health America

In mental health, a peer is usually used to refer to someone who shares the experience of living with a psychiatric disorder and/or addiction. Within this context, two people living with mental health conditions can be considered peers, but in reality, most people are far more specific about whom they would rely on for peer support. Additionally, peer support activities can include anything from traditional peer support groups run by certified peer support specialists to non-traditional one-on-one peer support.  

Peer support addresses these needs as it allows for individuals to give and receive encouragement and assistance and helps them achieve long-term recovery. Studies showcase that peer support improves engagement and well-being and reduces mental health hospitalizations. Though trust and compatibility are often seen as important factors in this process, many traditional peer support services do not address key aspects such as race and sexual orientation.  

Research shows that only one in three Black adults who need mental health care receive it. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gay and bisexual youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers. Mental Health America (MHA) screening data also recognizes an emergent need to address the concerns of these communities, with 86 percent of LGBTQ youth (ages 11-17) scoring moderate to severe for a mental health condition. Additionally, multi-racial people were the most likely to screen at-risk for an alcohol/substance use disorder, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and psychosis. 

With all the challenges peers are facing, inclusion should not be one. It is therefore important to address barriers to care and inclusion experienced by BIPOC and LGBTQ peers. You can help us address these by taking our BIPOC and LGBTQ survey and sharing it with your communities. 


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