Nova Scotia's peer support line making a 'huge difference' for people, worker says
Toll-free line launched earlier this month, and is available on weekends and most weekday evenings
A worker with Nova Scotia's new peer support line, which provides a listening ear for people struggling with mental health and addictions challenges, says it's already making a difference for some.
The provincewide toll-free support line launched earlier this month, and is available on weekends and most weekday evenings at 1-800-307-1686.
Carrie Lee, a certified peer support specialist, is the practice lead for the Nova Scotia Peer Support Phone Service.
Lee spoke with CBC Radio's Portia Clark on Information Morning Nova Scotia about the new phone line on Monday.
Their conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Listen to Lee's full interview on CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia:
What does peer support mean, as opposed to therapy?
Peer support is based on dealing with individuals with similar experiences, so it's more about connection and led by the individual who's actually accessing the services.
So peer support workers are meant to provide a listening ear?
Yeah. I think the listening ear is a big piece of it. It's to provide a connection that maybe you can't find. People crave connection and being heard, versus being told what to do and how to navigate their recovery.
Are you giving advice or just listening?
Basically, there's never any advice given. Everything is directed by the individual who is reaching out for services.
Who can call this line for support?
These services are intended for anyone over the age of 18. You'll have the option to connect to the Kids Help Phone if you do call in and you are underage.
It's intended for anyone who feels isolated or alone or anxious or concerned. It doesn't have to be a big issue. It can just be, "Hey, you know what, I'm having a tough day and I need to be supported."
The line has been active for more than a week now. How has it been going?
It's been going well. There are individuals calling in and the feedback that is being provided by the individuals calling in is very positive.
So it's not maxed out? If you call, you'll get through and be able to connect with someone?
Right now, there are things in place if someone calls. The idea is you do eventually reach a human, as soon as possible, but there is the option that if you end up in a queue, where you are waiting, you have the option to leave a voicemail so someone can get back to you as soon as possible, or you are on the line and validated that you are waiting and someone will get to you.
Say if you call more than once, will you be connected with the same peer supporter? How does that work?
This is an interesting service because nothing is recorded. Everything is confidential. You may, if you call back, get the same individual, but it's not captured to be an ongoing service.
It's, "You know what? Hey, I had a bad day today. I'm calling in."
You can explore your options and what you feel you need with this individual to support you as you move away from the phone line back out into your life.
OK, so you might be given some resources to call for other kinds of mental health support. Is that the idea?
For sure, and a lot of people have tools and skills and sometimes we just have to revisit what that looks like for us, and that space is provided on the line as well. And if there's more needed, for sure, there's a conversation that happens around, "Hey, like, are you aware of this?" and it just depends on the individual who's calling and if they're even looking for those. Maybe they just want to be heard.
So they might already have mental health support or therapy, but in that moment they don't have an appointment.
Right, and what's beautiful about this line is the hours. They're Wednesday to Friday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and that supports evenings and weekends where people sometimes don't have access to the things they normally rely on.
What's the training for this, if you're one of the people giving peer support, beyond being a good listener?
Yeah, so that's a piece of it. Empathetic listening for sure. Every single individual who provides peer support on this service receives ongoing training and learning, as well as support for doing this type of work.
Is there a what-not to-say guidance in some instances?
It's all about empowerment and self-determination for the peer in their recovery. It's not an advice line, that isn't going to be something you're going to find on that line.
It might help if you've had some of these feelings or experiences yourself, and it makes me wonder how you got into peer support, Carrie?
I've been doing this now for nine years.
I had some pretty tough struggles. I found myself in a very dark place and I will share that I was fortunate enough to have great supports and people who did listen and empower me to grow and have the space to get to where I am now, so that led me to wanting to support others because it is a very dark and lonely place to be.
Has it been rewarding to give back in this way?
I would say it's a privilege. I have never been surrounded by more vulnerable and authentic people that allow me the space to be the same, doing anything else that I've done in my whole entire life.
Do you feel like it helps people before they get to that dark place?
I can't speak for their experiences, but the feedback that I've received from some of the people that I personally have supported is that this makes a huge difference in their life, so when people provide feedback like that, it's a game changer for me as well.
With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia