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Minister McEntee launches report on The Impact of Peer-Led Mental Health Services in the Community on 7th December 2016 at the School of Nursing and Midwifery 

The research into the impact of peer-led mental health projects in the community was led by a team from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin and spearheaded by Mental Health Ireland in partnership with the HSE Mental Health Division. The research team, including two peer researchers, Angelika Lindenau and Catherine Corrigan and Trinity Researchers Dr Rebecca Murphy; Carmel Downes and Professor Agnes Higgins

The report documented the development and impact of two of Ireland’s long-running community based peer-run projects, Gateway in Rathmines, Dublin and Áras Folláin in Nenagh, Tipperary. Both projects are over ten years old, have grown organically from very small beginnings, share a commitment to peer expertise and recovery; and have engagement and community development at their core.

The research utilised both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. Data were collected using focus groups, individual interviews, surveys and documentary analysis.  Participants identified components of Gateway and Áras Folláin which informed their satisfaction and continued engagement with the projects. These included: a safe, non-prescriptive space; recovery oriented; peer-led; and a social outlet. 

 Survey participants gave the highest helpfulness ratings to ‘receiving support from peer workers’, ‘opportunities for involvement in social activities’, ‘opportunity to provide support to others’, and ‘seeing how other people coped with their mental health difficulties’. Many participants reported improvement in overall emotional wellbeing, hope for the future, self-confidence and self-worth.

 On a scale of 0-7, participants scored the services’ impact on all items associated with their personal recovery above 5 including a sense of belonging (M=5.69), hope for the future (M=5.69), sense of ownership of recovery (M=5.67), sense of purpose (M=5.59), self-worth (M=5.56), self-confidence (M=5.51), and self-empowerment (M=5.43).

Survey participants also highly rated the services’ impact on their knowledge in relation to their mental health (M=5.75), the mental health services (M=5.22) and their rights and entitlements (M=5.05).

The projects also impacted positively on participants’ skills in making friends (M=5.57), empowering them to deal with their mental distress (M=5.48) and giving them daily coping skills (M=5.24). Help-seeking skills were also impacted on positively in terms of being able to ask for what is needed (M=5.06), knowing how to seek support (M=5.39) and accessing mental health resources (M=4.96).

In terms of clinical recovery outcomes, over half of participants reported some, or a significant reduction in the symptoms of their mental health difficulties (53.8%). Just over two-fifths reported some, or a significant reduction in hospital admission (43.9%) and attendance at mental health services (43.9%), and just under two-fifths reported some, or a significant reduction in GP attendance (39.7%). Approximately, 34.9% reported some, or a significant reduction in medication

Orla Barry, CEO of Mental Health Ireland said “This report is testimony to the immense support that people can give each other in recovery. Gateway and Áras Folláin are wonderful places where people support each other to gain confidence and skills, and be involved in the life of their community. Mental Health Ireland recognises the benefit of peer-led community projects and is committed to the development of the projects and their leaders”.

She went on to say “We hope this study becomes an important resource for mental health services and local groups interested in understanding how successful peer projects develop and that it informs national policy makers on the importance and value of community peer-led projects”.

Professor Agnes Higgins commented that “The report provides clear evidence of the value of collective models of peer support in people’s recovery journeys.  It also highlights the importance of ensuring sustainability of peer services by providing adequate fiscal supports.” 

Gateway pioneers recovery-oriented approach to mental illness

Peer-led project in Rathmines offers ‘place to regain myself and get a sense of hope’