Does peer support work ?

“People expect you to be strong, but it can be any little thing that may trigger you later. So for me, that was like a month later that I held this little baby, but then my mind starts to go back to three different calls that I went to involving babies.”

This is why the London Police Service has a peer support group. While the Critical Incident Stress Management program exists as a more formal process to debrief officers after difficult calls, the peer support group is an informal network of 30 members, uniform and civilian, who act as friendly ear and are available when someone is triggered later down the road.

“It’s great to support people after the big calls, after the trauma, but know that … this can come up at any time, for seemingly no reason at all.”

A 2011 study found “[E]vidence supporting the effectiveness of peer-provided services lags behind their rapid growth. . . Reviews have found little evidence of the superiority of peer-provided services for a wide range of outcomes.”6 The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) studied the cost of peer support and concluded “The most important finding for policy makers is the significantly higher total Medicaid cost for those who used peer support services.”7 The other finding that reached statistical significance was that those who received peer support needed more crisis stabilization services than those who did not. The Cochrane Collaborative concluded, “Involving consumer-providers in mental health teams results in psychosocial, mental health symptom and service use outcomes for clients that were no better or worse than those achieved by professionals employed in similar roles, particularly for case management services.”8