We are big believers of incorporating peer support in crisis prevention and emotional support programming. There is a lot of evidence that supports the value of peer support. So we are actively working to partner with other organizations to help increase its use.
There are many areas in which peer support has been found to be helpful. One of them is in helping with Post-traumatic stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Post-traumatic stress during the COVID-19 pandemic among workers
The COVID-19 Pandemic is creating a serious problem with COVID-19-related post-traumatic stress (PTSD). One study found that 22% of emergency physicians were experiencing PTSD because of COVID-19 issues at work*.
Post-traumatic stress suffered by COVID-19 patients
Previous studies found that up to 20% of intensive care unit survivors go on to develop PTSD* Because of this, we were warned early in the pandemic that there was a high risk for patients who were infected with COVID-19, particularly whose who suffered severe cases and needed intensive care to experience PTSD*. As more data has been from COVID-19 patients, we have since learned that the levels of PTSD COVID-19 patients are suffering may be much greater. One study of just patients classified with mild cases of COVID-19, 17.3% had symptoms of PTSD, 22.4% had symptoms of anxiety, and 26.2% had symptoms of depression* The impact of the pandemic is so severe, that even when not screening just for individuals who personally were infected with COVID-19, a Norwegian study found that 12.5% of men and 19.5% of women were struggling with PTSD symptoms*.
Peer Support: What is it, and how does it help with COVID-19 Pandemic-related PTSD?
Peer support is informal social and emotional support provided by peers in a peer-to-peer environment, in contrast to an individual receiving support in a therapist-to-patient environment. Participants in peer support often feel that they receive a greater level of acceptance, understanding, and validation, through these peer groups, than they do through other professional therapeutic relationships*.
Peer support has been recommended as a complementary resource to other professional services, to help maximize positive outcomes for strengthening mental health in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (6). The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the value of peer support and highlights several important ways that participants tend to benefit from peer support:*
- Receive real examples of recovery from other participants
- Experience a sense of hope through shared experiences
- Increased sense of control and ability to bring about change in their own life
- Increased engagement in self care and wellness
- Decreased psychotic symptoms
- Decreased substance use and depression
“When I saw that other people recovered, it gave me hope that I could too.” —Corinna
Reach In Now is launching a new mobile application linked to the Reach In Now University online resource. Application users will be able to participate in anonymous peer support chats. Desert Rose Gives is partnering with Reach In Now to support the peer support platform and effort to increase community participation.
- Marco CA, Larkin GL, Feeser VR, Monti JE, LV for the ACEP Ethics Committee. Post-traumatic stress and stress disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic: Survey of emergency physicians. JACEP Open. 2020;1:1594–1601. https://doi.org/10.1002/emp2.12305
- Davydow DS, Gifford JM, Desai SV et al. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2008;30:421-34.
- Greenberg, N., & Rafferty, L. (2021). Post‐traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of COVID‐19 pandemic. World Psychiatry, 20(1), 53.
- Ismael, F., Bizario, J. C., Battagin, T., Zaramella, B., Leal, F. E., Torales, J., … & Castaldelli-Maia, J. M. (2020). Post-infection depression, anxiety and PTSD: a retrospective cohort study with mild COVID-19 patients. medRxiv. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/medrxiv/early/2020/08/31/2020.08.25.20182113.full.pdf
- Bonsaksen, T., Heir, T., Schou-Bredal, I., Ekeberg, Ø., Skogstad, L., & Grimholt, T. K. (2020). Post-traumatic stress disorder and associated factors during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Norway. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(24), 9210.
- Mead, S., & MacNeil, C. (2006). Peer support: What makes it unique? InternaMonal Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilita=on, 10, 29-‐37. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.584.6618&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Suresh, R., Alam, A., & Karkossa, Z. (2021). Using peer support to strengthen mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: a review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 1119. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.714181/pdf