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A Peer Trainer is someone who has lived experience of mental health problems and has shown that they have been able to use recovery tools to sustain good management of their difficulties. We have Peer Trainers from a wide spectrum of mental Health challenges giving us the ability to provide a good range of course from anything from Mindfulness to Managing psychosis. All our Peer trainers in Sussex have at least level 3 adult education qualification that used to be called PTTLS [Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector] or the Award in Education and Training.
Many of our Peer Trainers have a background of Peer Support or teaching in other areas but this is by no means a requirement.
Peer trainers' lived experience may also come from their experience of being a supporter, relative or carer of someone with mental health challenges. Sometimes these trainers are called Peer Carer Trainers.
Peer trainers are responsible for co-developing and producing courses alongside a mental health practitioner or clinician [co-facilitators] who has experience through training but can also [and quite often] have had mental health challenges of their own at one time or another.
Peer Trainers often take on roles outside of this, for example, in steering groups and can teach elsewhere as well. Peer Trainers meet regularly in group meetings and have supervision to make sure that any issues that arise can be dealt with in the best way possible. Many Peer Trainers will have gone on courses themselves to widen their own knowledge of Recovery and will have professional training in other areas of mental health and teaching.
Peer Trainer role
As a peer trainer my role at Hastings Recovery College is to use my personal experience of my own mental health issues alongside my teacher training to deliver courses with my co-trainers.
For me this has been an incredible experience. One of my fears was that as a former service user I was recruited as a token gesture but from the first day I was treated as an equal, with my new colleagues - professionals with years of training and experiences, seeking my opinion and making decisions based on it. This to me demonstrates how much more respect is given to people living with mental health issues now and how passionate professionals are about supporting them in their recovery. Using my own experiences to help others was very rewarding and hopefully my role helps others to see that their mental health issues needn’t be a barrier to living the life they want.
One of the most inspiring things about my previous term at the Recovery College was speaking to the students who came. Some had been involved with services a long time, others had only recently started their recovery journey but all of them had made the decision to come along and try something new in the hope that they could learn something that may help them. That showed me the amazing strength that people have and seeing how much people enjoyed and took away from the sessions is why I feel so privileged that I get a chance to be part of Hastings Recovery College again this year.
Being a peer trainer:
"I became a peer trainer after the role being suggested as I was actually having difficulties managing my mental health. I had said to the practitioner that I was fed up with talking about my problems. I needed to do something constructive with my problems.
I met the team and immediately felt at ease with the group of people and straight away felt part of a positive team keen to make a difference and impact on peoples’ lives.
I was a bit of a late comer [I was always called a ‘late starter’ in my early years] and in a few days the PTTLS training begun, an intensive course on teaching adults which would give me a vocational qualification and enhance my already practiced teaching skills. The group bonded quickly and with our own set of shared difficulties and goals it was easy to make friends and feel needed.
AS we were going through this, our own course, our minds were also being challenged by thinking about the types of courses best suited to us to deliver to our students. We formed relationships with practitioners and other professionals and, for the first time in a long time, I felt part of a properly engaged and professional team with high standards and wanted goals where I and my new colleagues were able to use our skills that, in some cases, had been completely dormant for years due to illness and lack of opportunities.
The first day of our first courses there was an apprehension of whether or not we would be able to deliver something different, something unique that would reach people who have found other methods of learning how to self-manage. It was soon apparent that our courses, delivering information through both practitioners and peers at an equal level really gave our student a lot to work with. Being able to adapt answers and suggestions to individual points raised is something often a practitioner with no lived-experience could provide and equally the practitioners advice and tips would be answers the peers weren’t necessarily able to provide themselves and working as an equal partnership gave neither option true precedence and therefore the students were able to use whichever training they felt appropriate.
I can tell you that it was very difficult for me to hold back tears of admiration and joy when I saw one particular student go up on stage and deliver a speech in front of 100 people. It was a big enough leap for me but for this particular student the journey was far further and done far quicker. That student had needed to be brought into the first session of my first course terrified of being in a group. That student had attended almost all of our courses and to see the result was uplifting and if you were to ask me what the highpoint of the experience was, that was it.
Being placed in a position where I can make significant changes to others’ lives and watch people grow and move on built on those small steps, I helped with, is better medication for me than any anti-depressant. I feel this is where I belong. I can pool all of my talents and experience, become part of a great team and grow my own self-esteem and sense of self-worth into the bargain. The confidence and experiences I have had have had the most positive influence on my Personal-development than any other activity I have engaged with."
We also sometimes take on associate peer trainers – this is a volunteer trainee role and we provide the training and supervised experience they need to go on to apply to become peer trainers. This includes them completing the ‘Preparing to teach in the life-long learning sector’ (PTTLS) accredited level 4 teaching qualification. We advertise, interview and recruit peer trainers and associate peer trainers on a regular basis. [contact us to go on a mailing list ready for when we are next recruiting
Most of the peer trainers have lived experience of personal experience of mental health challenges but we do also recruit relatives and carers of people with mental health challenges, learning disabilities and dementia for specific courses where the carer perspective is especially valuable
When we are not actively recruiting peer trainers for Sussex Recovery College you can also apply to join the Sussex Partnership Peer Trainer and Peer Support worker bank at any time
“It was great to be offered training in “Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector” and to receive a qualification at the end. It was very hard work as it was an intensive course with many essay deadlines, but I definitely learnt a lot about how to make sessions inclusive and to use a variety of teaching materials including visuals.” ,
“I worked alongside several professionally trained staff, we all worked together very well, and I think we also learnt from each other” – Peer Trainer