- Should it be prerequisite that a potential Peer is already seeking professional care before signing up?
- How will we protect the confidentiality of Peers and Supporters?
- What are the criteria for a supporter?
- What if a Supporter is too busy to help a Peer(s) at a given time?
- What if the Peer’s mental health issue is more serious than what the Supporter feels able to deal with?
- What if Peers come to rely on their Supporters in lieu of professional care?
- What other potential risks are there for Supporters, and will they receive any support?
- Who would be liable if anything were to go wrong?
- Might changes still be made to the programme?
Though it is encouraged (much of the awareness material we provide is directed at encouraging recourse to professional care should you feel you need it), it is not a pre-requisite for seeking contact with a supporter. Indeed, part of the role of a supporter may be to encourage a peer to seek professional care and in some respects provide advice as to that first contact.
This requirement should not however be mistaken as a requirement of professional knowledge. We specifically ask that our carers do not provide what might be regarded as professional advice, nor should they appear to have such advice on hand. We do not want supporters relying on this scheme alone in lieu of professional advice.
We only compulsorily request the email address of peers so we may put them in touch with a supporter – all other information is optional. Whatever information is provided, it is only the CUMSA welfare and database officers who will have access to it (the latter only for administration purposes). This is the minimum amount of contact with personal data required for the running of the programme. Personal data is further protected by the UK’s data protection laws – we are under a legal obligation to use the data only for those purposes for which it was collected and therefore impliedly consented to (i.e. to link a peer to a supporter).
We do ask that supporters have personal experience with mental health, and of course, that they have recovered. Naturally of course, they should also be willing to, and are comfortable providing friendly advice to peers. Finally, we ask that they acquaint themselves with our guidebook so they may know the limitations of their role.
It is clearly stated in the guidebook that there are limitations to a supporter’s role. Supporters are urged to be very honest with the level of commitment they can sustain and should they be too busy, we do ask that they gently step back from the role. CUMSA’s Welfare Officer will be on standby to help in this process, and we provide the contacts of counsellors who are happy to take the place of a peer should it be required.
However, we do hope that such a situation never arises, especially since it can be difficult for a supporter to step back from this role. To this end, we limit the number of peers a supporter may take on to 2.
As above, the limitations of a supporter’s role are clearly stated in the guidebook. Should a supporter feel even remotely that the situation might be beyond their capability, we strongly urge them to step back and refer the peer to a mental health professional. CUMSA’s Welfare Officer will be on standby to help in this process, and we provide the contacts of professionals who are happy to take the place of a peer should it be required. Such contacts have been established in advance and have kindly agreed to be on standby for just such a situation.
Again, we do hope such a situation does not arise because of the difficulty inherent in stepping back from the role of supporter. To this end, it cannot be emphasised enough that a supporter is not there to provide professional care. In providing friendship and empathy in the intervals between professional care, we hope that there will never be a situation beyond the knowledge or expertise of the supporter – that is only rightly the place of a professional.
This situation is to be avoided and efforts have been made to ensure it is. Firstly, the guidebook and site specifically state that the advice given is not to be professional in nature, and we ask that all parties involved do not cultivate such an impression. Secondly, a vital part of the duty of a supporter (for those who have yet to seek professional care) is encouraging peers to seek professional advice and to suggest the best avenues of doing so.
Should such reliance ever come about, we urge supporters to contact CUMSA’s Welfare Officer so he/she may facilitate contact with a professional. Such contacts have been established in advance and have kindly agreed to be on standby for just such a situation.
There are certainly risks for supporters, including feeling swamped by such responsibilities alongside work, the risk that they might give inaccurate advice etc.
To this end, we very specifically limit the role of supporters so they do not put themselves in positions of such risk accidentally. The guidebook lays out in clear terms the limitations of the role, confining it to one of friendship in nature, and with no more than 2 peers. This is not to say the role is at all diminished in importance, just that we occupy a realm outside professional advice.
Support will be on hand in the form of the CUMSA Welfare Officer, and professional contacts who have agreed to serve as advisors if ever such a situation should arise.
Through limiting the role of a supporter to one which never provides nor appears to provide professional care (and clearly disseminating information to that effect), we ensure that CUMSA and our supporters are free from formal liability. Urging recourse to professional care and having professionals on standby is part of this effort.
Certainly, a number of elements of the programme are still in flux. We do not yet know how many supporters will sign up, whether we will have enough supporters in the future, whether individuals would be willing to come to CUMSA for such help or whether the programme will have sufficient impact.
To this end, the programme is for now rightly characterised as a trial of sorts. While we have done our best to lay adequate foundations and prepare for any contingency, it will be for future committees to make changes as they see fit. If need be, future committees should also be prepared to scrap the programme if there is good justification for doing so.