Mutual Support in Romania
During the period November 2014- January 2015, the Romanian League for Mental Health, in collaboration with Estuar Foundation, organized the vocational training course ”Peer to Peer” for individuals who have experienced mental health problems, those who overcame them and those who can become “peer support workers” and individuals who are currently living with similar mental health difficulties.
This course was organized in Romania for the first time and provided participants with cognitive, social and communication abilities contributing to making mutual support an opportunity for employment and professional development. The themes of the training content included key concepts of recovery, force and trauma, understanding of peer support concept, the effects of labelling, strength-based approaches, self-help and self-management in peer support, effective communication, working with risk, goal setting and supervision.
After finishing the first piloting, we have asked some experts by experience and this is what they said:
“I salute the initiative of the Romanian League for Mental Health, event which was accommodated by Estuar Clubhouse, for the beneficiaries of the mental health system, for those recovered to help those who haven’t recovered yet! But, will we be truly able to use the information collected during this training?
The notion of peer support worker” seems so useful: only that person who has been through mental health problems can fully understand and help the mentally ill person. The relation with him is set to be ”peer to peer”, meaning from equal to equal, which is exactly the opposite to the present psychiatric system. This involves respect, confidentiality and lack of judging. Instead of reinforcing their attitude of seeing themselves as helpless and without hope”, isn’t it better to promote their strengths and encourage their resilience - meaning their power to overcome difficult situations – by using methods we learn in the training?”
“The training courses for “peer support workers” were very interesting and welcomed in a country where one doesn’t know even theoretically what it means and what a “peer support worker” does. Theoretically, I knew a good part of what I learned at the course. Practically, I failed a few times with some close ones. It was the same with the course: it was theoretical, extremely interesting, but practically I know what I knew before taking the training. There are difficulties which can be overcome with the help of specialists. However, one of the practical tests I was unsure as to what extent the specialist would assist me as in Romania the job is not common. I faced numerous difficulties including myself. It is important to try a real “peer to peer” relation, not only one during role plays. It is also important for me to be aware I can start off on the wrong foot. Above all, I must not abandon doing what I propose myself to do. It also important for individuals to be open to the work of a “peer support worker”