Peer Support Amidst the COVID Storm

The COVID 19 pandemic had a major impact on mental health and the way that health services were and still are provided. With more and more Canadians looking for mental health support post pandemic, organizations like Eating Disorders Nova Scotia are looking to continue to support Canadians through virtual care. Online Peer Support is an essential part of this care.

Eating Disorders Nova Scotia offers services across Canada for those struggling with their eating. They know that recovery looks different for many people. And to help more Canadians repair their relationship with food they offer online Peer Support. 

Nikki Olguin is the Youth Peer Support Coordinator at Eating Disorders Nova Scotia. “Peer Support involves individuals with shared experiences providing others with guidance and encouragement within the context of those similar experiences,” says Olguin.

Those providing the support are called Peer Mentors. Peer Mentors are not medical professionals, but people with lived experience with eating disorders or disordered eating.

“Peer Support is grounded in the idea that individuals who have gone through these experiences can offer valuable insights and another level of understanding in hopes of fostering a safe space, a sense of connection, motivation and personal growth”, says Olguin.

Those wishing to become mentors are required to complete 5 weeks of training. “The training process is intended to equip individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to provide safe and effective support to others based on their shared lived experience,” says Olguin.

Some of the topics covered in training include boundaries, navigating crises, and communication skills. “The training also covers ethical considerations and cultural competency,” says Olguin.

On top of 1 one 1 meetings with mentors, drop-in group sessions are also a provided service for those struggling with eating disorders or disordered eating. These mainly online sessions help reach individuals all across Canada. 

The COVID 19 pandemic opened new avenues for health care support. Many organizations that offer mental health care have moved online. For those experiencing accessibility issues in remote communities or areas with limited services, Olguin notes that this is a welcomed change. “The transition to virtual platforms for support have made peer support more accessible to those struggling with eating disorders or eating disorder-related stressors,” says Olguin.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among all mental illnesses. Many Canadians are desperate for support and human connection. Eating Disorders Nova Scotia is providing this support.

Eating Disorder Support Methods by Makenna Wormington