Mental Health Peer Support Networks

Photo of windows with grill and the text 'Support' written above and the text 'Community' written below.

Notwithstanding the gains that expatients, activists or consumers of mental health services have made in the developed, Western world in rallying for their rights, inclusion and dignity, their replicas duplicated, adopted or developed in the developing or underdeveloped parts of the world are vastly different—in terms of their social bargaining ability, wage negotiating capacity and acceptability within their own communities.

Sharma, Prateeksha. “Peer Support in Mental Healthcare.” Economic and Political Weekly (2019): n. pag. Print.

Prateeksha Sharma looks at the concept of peer support networks and their role in the delivery of mental health services. She traces the political beginnings of the concept in the US and through it examines the models being suggested in India. In looking at the particular conditions of Indian mental health care systems she asks the questions as to whether it is possible to look at peer systems suggested by Pathare et al (2018) in “Peer Support for Mental Illness in India: An Underutilised Resource,” as being something that aligns with the conditions of its beginnings. She asks extremely pertinent questions with regard to empowerment, wage negotiations, equality and whether such systems in India are being designed top down institutionally keeping psychiatrists still as powerful as they are.

What I have come across recently is the concept of ‘lived experience practitioners’ and here’s a paper – Lived experience practitioners and the medical model: world’s colliding? – that looks at the difficulties for lived experience practitioners working within clinical models.

I do strongly believe that lived experience practitioners within the mental health system in India would be able to provide the support and care that is lacking within it. I think this is more pertinent to state here since mental health practitioners in India are usually male, heterosexual, Hindu, Brahmin and belonging to the upper classes whereas those accessing mental health care belong to groups that find themselves in vulnerable positions in relation to the above.

Photo courtesy Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

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