Background: A growing gap has emerged between people with mental illness and health care professionals, which in recent years has been successfully closed through the adoption of peer support services (PSSs). Peer support in mental health has been variously defined in the literature and is simply known as the help and support that people with lived experience of mental illness or a learning disability can give to one another. Although PSSs date back to several centuries, it is only in the last few decades that these services have formally evolved, grown, and become an integral part of the health care system. Debates around peer support in mental health have been raised frequently in the literature. Although many authors have emphasized the utmost importance of incorporating peer support into the health care system to instill hope; to improve engagement, quality of life, self-confidence, and integrity; and to reduce the burden on the health care system, other studies suggest that there are neutral effects from integrating PSSs into health care systems, with a probable waste of resources.
By Reham A Hameed Shalaby*, MD; Vincent I O Agyapong*, MD, PhD
Department of Psychiatry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada