Peer Support and Mentoring as part of COVID19 Recovery in parishes

Dr. Robbie Lloyd

Parishes and schools will be gearing up for a new approach to working together this year more than many before, as COVID19 has blown away much of what we used to consider “normal”. And we have learnt something really helpful during this weird time – it’s Ok to say you’re not coping and to ask for support.

One way of providing support, without seeming to imply that anyone is “not up to it” but as a group approach to creating more intentional mutual support, is to establish a parish and school Peer Support and Mentoring program.

This can work among children, and among older people, as well as adults in the middle of busy lives. It’s as simple as pairing people up.

Peer Support began decades ago in industries where there were particular pressures on-the-job. Such as police and bank staff dealing with armed hold-ups, construction and emergency workers dealing with dangerous workplace accidents and natural disasters (fires, floods etc), and FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) mine workers in remote communities living with serious isolation.

There are things  to know about how to “be there” to help each other, and it’s not just about “having sympathy” for someone who may be in trouble with their mental health. It takes some training to become aware of what’s useful to offer by way of peer support. But it’s no onerous, and the Justice and Peace Office can help design a program to suit your community.

Likewise, Mentoring is a serious way to offer more experienced support for people in pressured roles, by someone who has been there longer and has seen the world go around a bit more. But again, this is not just “say whatever seems right”, it’s also about learning how to offer constructive (sometimes critical, but always unconditionally supportive) feedback and input.

Social workers and psychotherapists use this as a formal part of their work. Everyone in such roles must have “a supervisor” to give input and feedback in a supportive way, and to allow letting off steam and debriefing from difficult experiences.

If you think your parish or school community could benefit from such an approach the Justice and Peace Office can help to design a program to suit your local groups.