News & events

07 Dec 2016

The Impact of Peer-Led Mental Health Services in the Community

7th December 2016: Research into the impact of peer-led mental health projects in the community was led by a team from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin and spearheaded by Mental Health Ireland in partnership with the HSE Mental Health Division. 

The report in full can be read here – impact-of-peer-led-mental-health-support-in-the-community

The research team, including two peer researchers, Angelika Lindenau and Catherine Corrigan and Trinity Researchers Dr Rebecca Murphy; Carmel Downes and Professor Agnes Higgins, documented the development and impact of two of Ireland’s long-running community based peer-run projects, Gateway in Rathmines, Dublin and Áras Folláin in Nenagh, Tipperary.

The research, conducted over six months, examined the role of Gateway and Áras Folláin within the context of the HSE Mental Health Services development of recovery oriented community services. 

Both projects are over ten years old and have grown organically from very small beginnings. They share a commitment to recovery; peer expertise; and have engagement in consultation and community development at their core.

Professor Agnes Higgins of Trinity College Dublin said “This report provides clear evidence of the value of collective models of peer support in people’s recovery journeys.  It also highlights the importance of ensuring sustainability of peer services by providing adequate fiscal supports.” 

The research utilised both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. Data were collected using focus groups, individual interviews, surveys and documentary analysis. The majority of participants who participated were attending the services for over 2 years and engaging in their   drop-in hours or activities on a weekly basis.

 Participants identified components of Gateway and Áras Folláin which informed their satisfaction and continued engagement with the projects. These included: a safe, non-prescriptive space; recovery oriented; peer-led; and a social outlet. 

 Survey participants gave the highest helpfulness ratings to ‘receiving support from peer workers’, ‘opportunities for involvement in social activities’, ‘opportunity to provide support to others’, and ‘seeing how other people coped with their mental health difficulties’. Many participants reported improvement in overall emotional wellbeing, hope for the future, self-confidence and self-worth.

Orla Barry, CEO of Mental Health Ireland said “This report is testimony to the immense support that people can give each other in recovery. Gateway and Áras Folláin are wonderful places where people support each other to gain confidence and skills, and be involved in the life of their community. Mental Health Ireland recognises the benefit of peer-led community projects and is committed to the development of the projects and their leaders”.

The ongoing involvement of peers, family members, mental health professionals and community representatives in the governance of the projects has sustained their development over time. The commitment of the local communities to championing Áras Folláin and Gateway is indicative of the value of these peer-led projects. 

 In the context of the HSE Mental Health Services development of recovery oriented community services, the capacity of service users to engage in and influence the development of services is valued. Both Áras Folláin and Gateway offer people the opportunity to develop skills to support this engagement. 

Orla Barry said “We hope this study becomes an important resource for mental health services and local groups interested in understanding how successful peer projects develop and that it informs national policy makers on the importance and value of community peer-led projects”.

For further information:

Jill O’Herlihy     Mental Health Ireland  087 795 7717       jilloherlihy@mentalhealthireland.ie

Further information about the research:

Quantitative data comprised of a survey completed by 139 service users.  Almost 2/3 of survey participants were from the Gateway service (61.2%, n=85), with 38.8% (n=54) being from Áras Folláin.

The Beneficial Outcomes of Peer-Led Support:

• On a scale of 0-7, participants scored the services’ impact on all items associated with their personal recovery above 5 including a sense of belonging (M=5.69), hope for the future (M=5.69), sense of ownership of recovery (M=5.67), sense of purpose (M=5.59), self-worth (M=5.56), self-confidence (M=5.51), and self-empowerment (M=5.43).

• Survey participants also highly rated the services’ impact on their knowledge in relation to their mental health (M=5.75), the mental health services (M=5.22) and their rights and entitlements (M=5.05).

• The projects also impacted positively on participants’ skills in making friends (M=5.57), empowering them to deal with their mental distress (M=5.48) and giving them daily coping skills (M=5.24). Help-seeking skills were also impacted on positively in terms of being able to ask for what is needed (M=5.06), knowing how to seek support (M=5.39) and accessing mental health resources (M=4.96).

·                     In terms of clinical recovery outcomes, over half of participants reported some, or a significant reduction in the symptoms of their mental health difficulties (53.8%). Just over two-fifths reported some, or a significant reduction in hospital admission (43.9%) and attendance at mental health services (43.9%), and just under two-fifths reported some, or a significant reduction in GP attendance (39.7%). Approximately, 34.9% reported some, or a significant reduction in medication.


Researchers at Trinity College Dublin

Professor Agnes Higgins

Dr Rebecca Murphy, Post-doctoral Researcher, TCD

Carmel Downes, Researcher, TCD

Angelika Lindenau, Peer Researcher, Áras Folláin

Catherine Corrigan, Peer Researcher, Gateway

Research Advisory Group:

Orla Barry (Chair), Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Ireland

Fionn Fitzpatrick, Project Co-ordinator, Gateway

Ali Rochford, Development Worker, Gateway

Rachel Burke, Project Worker, Gateway

Margo O’Donnell,-Roche Project Co-ordinator, Áras Folláin

Shannon Sweeney, Volunteer, Áras Folláin

John McCusker, Operations and Service Improvement Manager, Mental Health Division, Health Service Executive

Tony Leahy, General Manager, Service Improvement Unit, Mental Health Division, Health Service Executive

Karen Galligan, Research and Policy Officer, Mental Health Ireland

Liz O Sullivan, former Manager, North Tipperary Community Services

HSE Mental Health Division:   

Anne O’Connor and Liam Hennessy

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