What happens when peer support workers are introduced as members of community-based clinical mental health service delivery teams: a qualitative study.
Ehrlich, C., Slattery M., Vilic, G., Chester, P., & D Crompton
ABSTRACT: The insights of people who have experienced mental health issues are at the core of recovery frameworks. The inclusion of peer support workers in clinical care teams is crucial to a recovery-supportive focus. Peer support workers facilitate egalitarian spaces for non-peer staff and consumers to frankly discuss the lived experience of mental illness. This study was part of a larger evaluation study which aimed to explore the implementation of a newly formed community-based mental health team in South-East Queensland, Australia. The paper reports the role of peer support workers and answers two research questions: "How is peer support work constructed in an interprofessional clinical care team?" and (2) "How do interprofessional mental health clinical care teams respond to the inclusion of peer support workers as team members?" Three themes were identified: peer support worker' ability to navigate a legitimate place within care teams, their value to the team once they established legitimacy and their ability to traverse the care landscape. Ultimately, successful integration in interprofessional teams was dependent upon the ability of clinical staff to focus on unique strengths that peer support workers bring, in addition to lived experience with mental illness as a carer or consumer.