Mental Health Peer Workforce Study
Health Workforce Australia
The purpose of this document is to report on the findings of the mental health peer workforce (MHPW) study, and to
provide a set of recommendations that will strengthen and develop the mental health peer workforce as an important
component of quality, recovery-focused mental health services.
The focus of this study is the mental health peer workforce in public, non government and private mental health
services. For the purposes of this report, peer workers (PWs) are defined as people who are employed in roles that
require them to identify as being, or having been a mental health consumer or carer. Peer work requires that lived
experience of mental illness is an essential criterion of job descriptions, although job titles and related tasks vary (Mental Health Coordinating Council, 2011). Peer support, which is one element of peer work, is based on the belief that people who have faced, endured and overcome adversity can offer useful support, encouragement, hope, and perhaps
mentorship to others facing similar situations (Davidson et al, 2006).
The requirement of lived experience of mental illness or mental health issues for identified peer roles leads to key
differences between a peer role and the role of other mental health workers. ‘It is possible to be a mental health
worker without lived experience however it is not possible to be a consumer worker or carer worker without the lived
experience’ (Watson 2007, quoted in Beattie, Meagher and Farrugia 2013 p19). There are also people working in mental
health who choose not to disclose lived experience. By definition, they are not peer workers, and are outside the scope
of this study.
The National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum (NMHCCF) notes that it is not appropriate to expect carer peer
workers to be able to provide expert advice or assistance for consumers, or for consumer workers to be able to provide
expert advice or assistance for carers (2010). Consumer peer workers can and do support consumers, and carer peer
workers can similarly assist families and carers.