Stigma reduction through peer outreach and support

Presentation First Author: 
Zachary Lang

Peer support is an effective form of social support known to assist persons engage and maintain their recovery and well-being. It is used in various aspects of the health field, both medical as well as behavioral health. Specifically, in mental health many persons believe that peer support stemmed from Alcoholics Anonymous around the 1930’s. However, peer support in mental health is documented in France as early as the late 18th century with persons in institutions. Although there is research and literature supporting peer support as an effective intervention to augment treatment, the specific benefits for a younger population have only just been investigated. Only recently has an international accrediting body added peer support standards into their manual for children and youth services.

This presentation offers participants the opportunity to hear of the personal journey of a young person who has struggled with understanding and accepting his mental health challenges and how he now utilizes this ‘lived experience’ to motivate and engage others with similar experiences; thus actively influencing the reduction of the negative stigma that mental health challenges carry.


1) For young persons to consider how they could impact mental health stigma reduction.

2) Encourage professionals to include peer support services in mental health programs for young persons.

3) Provide young persons, professionals, family and other insights that can be used to further their own goals and how they may contribute to improving the well-being of youth faced with mental health challenges.


Through sharing personal lived experience of the barriers faced in seeking treatment, engaging in and remaining in services, this presentation will emphasize the value of peer support services which includes the opportunity to reduce the stigma that envelops mental health.


Peer support is becoming increasingly utilized in the field of mental health services. For example, in the United States, some payers will reimburse for these services, when specific criteria such as accreditation is achieved. Unfortunately, many peer support programs currently in place do not include young persons, and as such, they are underrepresented in research studying the effectiveness of peer support. Additionally, peer support has a great effect on stigma reduction, especially when including young persons, due to it being perpetuated through generations. By educating young people about mental health and motivating them to reach out to others to provide facts and share their stories, we will have a powerful source to fight stigma.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
Type of presentation: 
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