Evaluation of the Implementation of a Peer Support Worker in the Clinic for Forensic Psychiatry Rostock

In recent years, national and international health care organizations have increasingly advocated the use of peer support workers in the health care system in general and psychiatric care specifically. Peer support is seen as part of a holistic recovery process that should also take into account the subjective side of those who are affected (Heumann et al., 2015). This applies especially in cases in which disorders are  severe and (full) recovery is uncertain (DGPPN, 2018). Peer support workers are individuals who have lived experience with a psychiatric illness or mental disorder and are successfully managing their lives with that disorder. Their purpose is to provide support to other affected individuals in in-patient and out-patient settings. The particular suitability of peers derives from shared experience of the same mental illness, which leads to a deeper understanding of the afflicted person’s situation (Repper & Carter, 2011). Initial studies point out numerous positive effects of peer support, e.g., more hope and empowerment, better social inclusion, lower rates of rehospitalization, and, with regard to that, lower burdens on the health care system (Centre for Mental Health, 2013; Repper & Carter, 2011). This trend has also found its way into mental health care in Germany (e.g., DGPPN, 2018; WHO Europe, 2010). The use of peer support in general psychiatric care is slowly increasing. Additionally, first guidelines for the implementation of have been developed (Heumann et al., 2015). In contrast to that, the use of peer support workers in forensic mental health settings is still scarce (Nolan, 2015).  Therefore, there is a lack of experience and research in this area that addresses the particular necessities and needs of patients and setting (e.g., in relation to safety).

The Clinic for Forensic Psychiatry in Rostock has made a contribution in this regard. Our research was supported by the State Office for Health and Social Affairs Mecklenburg-Pommerania. Some of our results can be found here: 

Poster presentation at EPA Congress 2020
Poster presentation at EPA Congress 2021