The power of peer support for mental health

The power of peer support for mental health

The importance of lived experience in the development and delivery of mental health care cannot be understated – providing patients and clients with a network of support and understanding. They can be a great tool to help people feel motivated to engage with treatment, or even to seek support in the first place.

Benefits of a peer support service

Peer support focuses on strengths, mutual support, and working towards recovery. They can help support people living with a mental illness, physical health condition or disability, or substance use issue to feel less alone and improve hope1.

By connecting with people who have faced similar experiences, peer support services can help reduce stigma and shame, creating a space to share positive coping strategies and normalize challenges. Hearing personal stories from people who are going through or have overcome similar situations and issues can be a really powerful tool to aid patients and clients in engaging with other forms of treatment.

Digital peer support services in particular offer these benefits with more anonymity for patients or clients who may be uncomfortable with seeking face to face support. Many are also available at any time, and can accessed from anywhere, broadening access to peer support for clients and patients who don’t have access to traditional support channels.

So how do peer support services fit into your practice?

Peer support services can be a great resources for patients or clients who feel alienated or mistrustful of medical services, or for those clients who could use a little support between sessions.

In a blended care approach, where you combine digital and standard treatment elements as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, peer support services can service many purposes including;

  • Conducting behavioural experiments
  • Practicing social skills
  • Providing help-seeking options outside of crises
  • As part of a self-care plan

Speaking on our podcast, Digital Mental Health Musings, Diane Cass, a social worker in South Australia, shares her success in recommending peer support services to her clients as a place to access support between meetings. She states, “when they actually hear stories of other people and how they’ve overcome certain situations, I think it’s incredibly powerful.” Check out the full episode to hear more.

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What do digital peer support services look like?

Digital peer support services come in many forms but all are designed to facilitate connection, either with a trained peer worker or a community. These can look like online discussion forums, spaces sharing personal stories, apps with built in social connection, and more.

While many are overseen by a trained moderator, we recommend checking that the service is moderated and staff are trained and supervised by a qualified professional before recommending to patients/clients.

Some examples to get you started

Beyond blue logo

Beyond Blue

Information, 24/7 phone and web-chat counselling, and peer support forums for people going through a tough time. The forums cover a range of topics including mental health conditions, caring for myself and others, young people, LGBTQI+ people and multicultural experiences.

Butterfly foundation logo

Butterfly Foundation

Information, self-assessment, online, video and phone counselling, peers support and recovery programs for eating disorders and body image issues. Butterfly offer virtual and webchat support groups for people experiencing an eating disorder or body image issue and their carers, family and friends. Their website also includes a library of personal stories from people touched by an eating disorder.

canteen logo

CanTeen Connect

An app linking young people (12-25 yrs) to an online community of peers impacted by cancer, with optional web-chat counselling.


An app providing community support and tools to help people change their relationship with alcohol.

My Circle

A safe, confidential peer support platform for young people (12-25 yrs) with mental health, relationship and substance use issues to connect and learn from each other.

Peer CARE Companion Warmline

1800 77 7337

A call-back service for people with lived experience on suicide to connect with others with similar lived experiences, and cope with emotional distress

Qlife logo


1800 184 527

Anonymous peer support and chat service for members of the LGBTIQA+ community. Available over the phone or via website every day between 3pm and midnight.


A website and online forum for young people seeking information and support to build resilience and improve wellbeing. The online forums offer a space to share experiences, learn from others and provide mutual support. ReachOut also offers a peerchat service through their website where users can connect with a peer worker with lived experience with mental health challenges.


Counselling, peer support and information for people with recurring, persistent or complex mental health issues and their support people. Sane offer community forums for people lived experience, and for friends, family and carers of someone with a mental health issue. Their website also includes a library of personal stories from people affected by complex mental health issues.

1 Fortuna KL, Naslund JA, LaCroix JM, Bianco CL, Brooks JM, Zisman-Ilani Y, Muralidharan A, Deegan P. Digital Peer Support Mental Health Interventions for People With a Lived Experience of a Serious Mental Illness: Systematic Review. JMIR Ment Health. 2020 Apr 3;7(4):e16460. doi: 10.2196/16460. PMID: 32243256; PMCID: PMC7165313.