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[Feature] Peer support helps mental patients recoverYongin Mental Hospital’s peer supporter training 1st in Korea
  • By Yang Geum-deok
  • Published 2018.04.02 15:11
  • Updated 2018.04.03 17:05
  • comments 0

A local mental hospital has adopted a training program to nurture “peer supporters” who understand the need of mentally ill patients and motivate them to return to normal social life.

Through the peer support program, which has already been implemented in advanced nations such as the U.S., people who recovered from a mental illness help peer patients get treated and recovered.

In Korea, Yongin Mental Hospital became the first to offer the program.

The Yongin Mental Hospital WHO (World Health Organization) Collaborating Center has been running the peer support training program since January. Four trainees are receiving the training.

In 2015, the hospital hired two peer supporters to help patients at the day-care Haetteullal Center. To enhance their professionalism and expand the peer support system, the hospital introduced the one-year regular training course.

“Peer supporters have been working in Korea for several years already. They experienced patients’ trauma and internal experiences that doctors cannot adequately care for. As they are mediators, they are helpful to raise treatment effects. Many reports support their roles,” said Lee Myung-soo, director of Yongin Mental Hospital.

“In Korea, it was difficult to guarantee the sustainability of peer supporters because they were employed based on a business project or a contract,” Lee said. To nurture systemically educated peer supporters and hire them directly, we have created the peer support training course.”

Participants attend the 16th International Conference on Mental Health and Rehabilitation in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on March 14.

Yongin Mental Hospital’s peer support benchmarked training modules of New York and WHO’s QualityRights to provide quality courses.

The one-year training course consists of 80 hours of lectures and 80 hours of practices. Local experts provide lecturing, and the internship for practices takes place at Yongin Mental Hospital and a psychiatric rehabilitation center in Gyeonggi Province.

“As the Mental Health Act was recently amended, a new provision was made to allow mental illness-related facilities to employ peer supporters. As the job market for peer supporters has opened, we needed an appropriate training program,” said Kim Seong-su, head of Yongin Mental Hospital WHO Collaborating Center. “Just like in New York, we developed the curriculum so that we could get the support of the local government and help peer supporters become experts.”

“In New York, there are more than 1,000 peer supporters in the mental health field. The city has been training such people for the past 20 years, and the New York state started issuing licenses four years ago,” Kim added.

He visited Howie The Harp Advocacy Center and Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, a New York State-owned psychiatric hospital, last year to benchmark their curriculums and developed the training program, according to Kim. “WHO’s QualityRights also had a concept of peer support, and I referenced its module, too,” he said.

QualityRights explains recovery and capacity building in mental health service, offers assessment and execution manuals for improving human rights, and provides education content. The WHO Collaborating Center distributes the knowledge.

Yongin Mental Health recently held “the 16th International Conference on Mental Health and Rehabilitation” and introduced the concept of peer support, for the first time in Korea.

“Peer supporters are naturally involved in the process of building a community with patients. By reflecting the viewpoint of QualityRights – that it is not just about protecting human rights but all the services in the mental health field are connected to the human rights -- we are trying to overcome limitations in psychiatric treatment,” Lee said.

“If the peer support program can be reimbursed just like in the U.S., we can say the system is settled. But in Korea, we’re just at the beginning state,” he went on to say. “But it’s clear that peer support has a positive effect on patient care. I hope that we can train many fellow supporters. I also hope that they will be hired by hospitals and have their jobs secured.”


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