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Peer support produces better recovery for those in mental health crisis

In a recent study published in The Lancet, it has been seen that peer support workers may help reduce an individual’s relapse into a mental health crisis.

Mental health crisis and management is a serious concern and finding the best resources is important. Acute care for mental health services is expensive, and when relapse occurs, individuals need to be readmitted.

To reduce the number of beds used, there are a number of crisis resolution teams available. Despite this, inpatient admissions are increasing. A recent study conducted in England tested whether self-management with peer support could reduce the rates of readmission to acute care. The results, published in The Lancet, talks about how peer support workers can be role models for those struggling with mental health crisis. This study was a randomised controlled trial funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

For the study, 221 participants were encouraged by peer support workers to complete a personal recovery workbook in weekly sessions, lasting a duration of an hour across a period of four months. The peer support worker themselves had previous experiences using mental health services and thus could promote personal recovery goals for the patient.

The peer support workers themselves maintained anonymous logs, which were brief about the sessions offered and attended, as well as the sections of the workbook that were completed by the participants. Data collection occurred at the start of the study, at four months, and at 18 months, wherein after obtaining informed consent, researchers gathered information through a structured interview.

Peer support is significantly important for mental health crisis recovery

The study indicated that peer-delivered self-management methods of intervention significantly reduced readmissions to acute care. Repeated admissions for acute care were reduced by a quarter and this is very promising for those struggling with mental health problems.

The control intervention involved sending participants the workbook through the mail and it resulted in a higher than the anticipated proportion of people participating. A diverse and socially desirable group was part of the study, which does indicate that the findings can be generalised.

They found that the role of peer workers in providing support is significantly important in helping people recover from mental health crisis. Since these support workers have a personal experience in tackling these conditions, their empathetic and warm approach is important. Sharing coping strategies and skills and planning strategies to maintain wellbeing are a valuable part of providing support.

While the design of the study followed existing international paradigms, the authors note that they could not clearly differentiate between the impact of self-management and peer support workers on the study outcomes. While the response rate was at 80% for secondary outcomes at the end of treatment, at 18 months, it was just below 60%.

Peer support workers help reduce readmissions

Despite these limitations, the study does indicate the importance of peer support workers in reducing readmissions for those with acute mental care needs and mental health crisis. Further research on peer-supported interventions and self-management are necessary. It is also important to take into consideration if the relationship with the peer support worker and completion of the recovery plan have separate effects on the expected outcomes.

Written by Sonia Leslie Fernandez, Medical News Writer

Reference: Johnson, S., Lamb, D., Marston, L., Osborn, D., Mason, O., Henderson, C., … & Sullivan, S. (2018). Peer-supported self-management for people discharged from a mental health crisis team: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet392(10145), 409-418.



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