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Peer support for people with anxiety

The Institute of Mental Health has been successful in securing funding from Anxiety UK’s ‘Katharine and Harold Fisher Anxiety Research Fund’ to further develop peer support training for people with Anxiety.

This exciting research project started on 1 October and will help to further understand what peer support should look like for people who are unable to attend traditional face to face groups or training because of their anxiety.

Nicky Lidbetter, Chief Executive, Anxiety UK commented: “We are delighted that the Institute has been appointed to deliver this important research project in the first year of the Katharine and Harold Fisher Anxiety Research Fund’s existence. We very much look forward to working with the Peer Support Team over the next year and seeing the outcomes make a difference in the future to those living with and affected by anxiety.”

Peer support is commonly defined as 'offering and receiving help, based on a shared understanding, respect and mutual empowerment between people in similar situations'. Benefits of peer support have included greater empowerment, confidence and self-esteem for those receiving the support as well as for the peer supporters themselves.

The Institute runs an accredited course for peer supporters, which organisations such as, NHS Trusts and charitable organisations access. The course focuses on recovery and peer support and helps learners to develop skills such as active listening and problem solving and gives them the chance to share their experiences.

Marissa Lambert, Education Practice Consultant at the Institute commented: “Participants describe the course as 'life-changing' with positive impacts on self-confidence and self-esteem as well as being a route back to work and helping others.”

“We are conscious however, that our peer support group training sessions, and other self-help groups, potentially exclude people with anxiety disorders that prevent them from attending group activities. Many people have anxieties that make it difficult for them to leave their house for training or support.”

Martin Orrell, Director of the Institute says: “To receive funding for this important piece of work is an excellent achievement for Marissa and the Institute’s Peer Support Team. The project supports our long term aim of co-producing with people who access our services as well as working in partnership with Anxiety UK, bringing together national expertise around anxiety and peer support.”

The project will run for one year and throughout that time, the Peer Support Team will work alongside the Institute’s Research Support and Evaluation Team to review the current knowledge about effective support and training methods for people who experience anxiety.

Service users will be central to the project and will be invited to undertake an online survey as well as get involved with more in-depth interviews to explore their perceptions of peer support, and any barriers and facilitators to its success and quality.

Marissa says: “We value opportunities to share good practice and encourage conversations and this project does just that. We aim to produce meaningful outcomes and hope that our findings will influence future practice, and therefore help to provide people with anxiety the same opportunities to access support from their peers.”