1 in 6 of us is likely to be experiencing a mental health problem such as depression and anxiety at any one time. On top of the stresses and strains of the past few years, it’s perhaps unsurprising that mental health has found its way onto the workplace agenda.
Employers are now engaged in conversations about mental health and are trying to think of creative solutions to better support their employees.
Peer support in the workplace is something that has been gaining in popularity and momentum. It’s often featured as part of an Employee Assistance Programme or as a stand-alone option. But what is it exactly – and how can it help?
What is peer support?
Peer support is a long-standing method of providing support to people when they are struggling with their mental health. It's been used for decades to provide an alternative to speaking with a professional and has some really unique benefits.
But what does peer support mean, exactly?
By definition, peer support means bringing people together to share experiences and offer emotional and practical support to each other. It is a safe place where people can talk about their mental health and get the opportunity to speak to other people who may have had similar experiences.
Why do we need to think about mental health at work?
People spend most of their day at work, whether that’s in the office or working from home. It’s not surprising then that work can have a huge impact on someone's mental health. That might be a positive impact, by providing structure, social connection and financial security. But it can also be a negative one, leaving someone feeling overwhelmed, burned out and stressed out.
The relationship between work and mental health goes both ways, and someone’s mental health also inevitably impacts their work and their ability to do their job.
What stops people from getting help?
Unfortunately, there is still a stigma to putting your hand up and saying, “yes, I am struggling and I need help”. This might be particularly so at work, where we are often keen to present the best version of ourselves and don’t want to do anything that might hamper our career prospects.
Many people also find it hard to have conversations about their mental health with their doctor, especially if it’s something they’ve never done before. This can lead to people feeling isolated and alone.
How can peer support in the workplace help?
Peer support is an easy way for someone to first access mental health support. Talking to a peer, rather than a professional, may also feel more comfortable for some people. Peer support gives people the opportunity to connect with someone who really gets them and may have been through a similar experience. This can make someone feel less alone and gives them a space to feel accepted and understood.
Given the amount of time we spend there, the workplace is uniquely positioned to begin conversations about mental health and to offer support early on, before things spiral into something more serious. That doesn’t mean peer support is only for people with a mental health problem. Peer support is for everyone to join and share in the ups and downs of life.
What is the evidence base for peer support?
The benefits of peer support are wide-ranging and well evidenced. Research has found that peer support is associated with improvements in mental health including greater happiness and self-esteem, and reductions in depression, loneliness and anxiety (Richard et al. 2022). Other research has found that peer support has the potential to improve physical functioning, quality of life and social functioning (Finnis et al. 2016).
Research into the impact of workplace peer support has also found benefits including a reduction in sick leave, as well as increased staff retention and wellbeing (Odeen et al. 2013, Sedivy et al. 2019).
What is TalkLife Workplace?
TalkLife Workplace is an online, global peer support community, specifically designed for employees. It is a safe and supportive community, moderated by online safety experts and clinicians who flag and manage risk in real time.
TalkLife Workplace instantly connects people so that they can access support for their mental health when they need it, anytime and anywhere.
TalkLife Workplace is anonymous, your employer won’t know you are using it and your colleagues won’t know that it’s you posting.
Why TalkLife Workplace?
TalkLife is the only online peer support platform clinically proven to increase users confidence in their ability to manage their own mental health and reduce harmful behaviours (Kruzan et al. 2022). A recent study (Rickard et al. 2022) also placed TalkLife in the top ten of quality mental health apps, after scoring highly in areas including accessibility, security and privacy, and evidence and clinical base.
86% of our users find it easier to ask for help
72% say their relationships have improved
82% feel more understood
79% feel more able to cope with life
This method of peer support is clinically evidenced to have a positive ongoing impact on mental health. When combined with our engaging platform, it offers a service that people want to use and that makes a difference when it matters the most.
You can find out more about TalkLife Workplace here.