A Glimpse into the Rural Peer Support Training Program

What is Peer Support?:

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Peer Support is “a supportive relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. The peer support worker provides emotional and social support to others who share a common experience. But despite evidence of the benefits, for both individuals and families, peer support programs have yet to receive the focus, funding, and attention needed”. 

Simply put, peer support is a way for individuals with a similar background to connect with each other and ensure that they are taking care of themselves on their specific needs and experiences. Peer support workers are trained on how to work with individuals with lived experiences that are reflective of their own and support from a place of empathy and understanding. This program is designed to truly empower both the support worker and the individual seeking support, as they work together, sharing experiences and developing wellness-related skills. 

To become a peer support worker, individuals must go through a training process. There are many organizations that offer peer support training. One of the best is Robyn Priest LIVE YOUR TRUTH, an organization that is currently offering online training for individuals and families. 

According to Robyn Priest, “Peer support isn’t limited to mental health or addiction issues. It can be about anything anyone is going through; about life.” This type of holistic, well-rounded support is imperative for everyone, as we all have unique experiences and struggles and want to connect with others who can understand what we might be going through. 

Why peer support in rural and agricultural communities?:

Peer support is led by trained people just like you who have lived experience with mental health challenges, but also get what it is like working in agriculture or living rurally. Since there aren’t that many mental health services in rural communities like psychologists or counsellors, peer support is a great option. Peer support can also be done over video chat, so you can keep it personal and private and makes support extremely accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robyn Priest notes, “I know having moved from the city to a farming community was a culture shock and being able to chat with others who had experienced that, or even just chatting with others who had dealt with dealing with crops, animals, the ever changing seasons, helped enormously. It was like – ahhh you get it.”

No one understands the life and struggles of those living and working in agricultural communities better than those who have that shared experience. The unique challenges individuals face are best supported by those who have been through similar things and can empathize from a place of deep understanding. For rural communities, these might be experiences with loneliness, burnout, stress around crops, unique family challenges, addiction and so much more.

What are the benefits for Peer Support training participants?:

There are so many benefits to participating in this training experience. First, participants will gain an understanding of peer support fundamentals and how they can apply them effectively when supporting peers in individual or group facilitations. These foundational skills can be useful in these facilitations, but also for supporting loved ones and other individuals in one’s life. 

Another benefit for participants is learning how to effectively communicate and share personal experiences in order to enhance interactions as a peer support worker and group facilitator. This unique way of communicating will aid trainees in their ability to connect and share reflectively and vulnerably with others, while maintaining professionalism. 

Thirdly, participants will gain an understanding of the importance of self-care and how to apply this practice in their lives. This skill of self-care can be carried throughout one’s life and can support the trainee’s mental wellbeing in all areas. It can also aid in their ability to take time for themself when supporting others, which can be an emotionally challenging task. 

Finally, and most importantly, to learn how to become a great peer support facilitator. This work is extremely rewarding and can lead to so many amazing opportunities for trainees. Individuals who participate in this training will be able to apply the skills they learn to do work that is nourishing and steeped with care and empathy. 

Please continue to check in with the Stigma-Free Society, as we add training sessions in the coming months!

Check out our peer support landing page HERE for more information.