SFMHCRA’s peer advocacy services can be arranged in-person, or by video chat or phone.
Peer Advocacy — what it is
A working definition by Kevin Reeves, Program Director SFMHCRA
In an informal sense, the term “peer advocacy” applies to situations in which the peer advocate — a person who has experienced challenges the same or similar to their client — empathizes and shares with them experiences, information, resources and encouragement. The peer advocate supports, assists and may help clients navigate systems and work through personal challenges in a non-judgmental way. Individuals served by peer advocates may come to feel more comfortable and understood, and to grow in confidence, trust and self-awareness.
Formally, in a professional context, peer advocates may be employees, interns, trainees or volunteers. It is their lived experiences and ability to be empathetic and form meaningful connections with others that qualifies them for their role as advocate. They may leverage their shared connection with clients to provide comfort, camaraderie, access, moral support, advice and understanding. Peer advocacy can even affect law, as the story of mental-health peer advocate Eleanor Riese illustrates.
Kevin Reeves, Program Director, San Francisco Mental Health Clients’ Rights Advocates. SFMHCRA’s staff is currently comprised of more than 50% peer employees with experience in the mental-health system and institutionalizations.