The importance of peer to peer social support

Niall Breslin
By Niall Breslin
A retired professional rugby and inter county football player, a multi-platinum selling song writer and music producer, public speaker and documentary maker who comes from the midlands town of Mullingar in Co. Westmeath. Co-Founder of A Lust For Life

Having normalised conversations amongst each other about something they have disguised is a powerful therapy

Over the last few months, I have commenced work on a documentary with 4 incredibly special people looking to explore ways they can improve their mental Health, which up to this point in their life has proven quite difficult.

As you could imagine, undertaking a project such as this requires absolute duty of care due to the complexities, subjectivity, and sensitivities involved. Our number one priority is their physical and mental wellbeing throughout this process.

Because of this, we have put together an elite team of qualified experts that will assess, monitor and support these guys every step of their journey. We have clinical psychologists, doctors, sports psychologists, and high performance coaches who are passionate about seeing a change in this country in regards to our mental health. The support that these people are starting to show our cast is proving massively effective to their wellbeing and recovery. Access to such expertise is no doubt a comfort for them.

However, something I have noticed over the last few months of working with this group is the unequivocal benefit of the peer to peer social support. Talking amongst each other, sharing their often devastatingly difficult circumstances, how their mental health illness has controlled and ruled their lives, and also the inspiring stories of resilience, builds a greater sense of support.

Having normalised conversations amongst each other about something they have disguised and repressed for so long is proven to be a powerful organic therapy that is complementing the various other treatments we are utilising. They have a WhatsApp group that is a hive of activity and they also contact each other on a daily basis.

This illustrates the importance of destroying the damaging stigma that is evident in society when it comes to mental health and emotional wellbeing. If people were in a position to engage in everyday conversation about the topic they would seek that social and peer to peer support that can prove so effective. That type of interaction is proving more and more significant with the expanding research on the topic.

So if you have a friend who you feel may struggle and you feel there is nothing you can do, this in fact may not necessarily be true. By offering that social support and just connecting in, you are indeed providing them with a powerful therapy in itself. Better again, why not get your group of friends to educate themselves further on the topic so that they can help act as that emotional scaffolding required by whoever is in distress. It’s simple, it’s effective and it sculpts a healthier and more comforting environment for all those surrounding it. If more and more groups of people do this, slowly our culture and attitude towards emotional wellbeing will change positively.

Can you be that social support for a friend in need?