Back Row (L2R): Serena Cripps, Roy Ang, Sheryl King, Allan MacLean, Kaitlin Blake, Andrew Day, Sue MacDonald Seated Row (L2R): Renea Mohammed, Toni Gallos, Linda Bourne (This picture is a mix of staff and peers. Not all peers wanted to be publicly acknowledged.)

Class of 2017 – New group of Peer Support Workers Graduate

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson’s quote has never been more relevant than it is to the Vancouver Mental Health and Substance Use Peer Support Program. “Peer support workers in our program are people who have experienced receiving mental health or addiction services,” explains Andrew Day, Director, Vancouver Central and Program Lead for Primary Care. “After they go through a rigorous peer support training program, they are hired on contract to provide 1:1 support to others receiving mental health and substance use services.”

Of the fifteen who started the peer training in September 2016, eleven students received certificates at the Peer Support Worker Training Graduation Ceremony on October 13th. “It’s a very high rate given the commitment involved in the program,” says Andrew.

Peer support recognizes the value in lived experience. It’s one of the qualifications for the work. After receiving training, peer support workers support their peers to achieve personal goals that the client has identified for him or herself, to learn new skills and/or to link with community resources.

And the training is no walk in the park. A significant amount of time and effort goes into completing the course requirements. There are over 85 hours of classroom training sessions, assignments, quizzes, two exams and a 36 hour practicum. “At the end of the session, our peers are more than ready for the job,” adds Andrew.

Each class picks a word or phrase that resonates with them. This is from a previous graduating class (word cloud for this class is not yet available).

Some of the recent graduates have already been hired to work as Peer Support Workers at sites including the Older Adult Rehabilitation Program, the ACT Team, Vancouver Detox-Daytox and the Kitsilano-Fairview Mental Health Team.

“I just want to publicly congratulate our peer group and acknowledge their effort,” adds Andrew.

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