Mindful Peer Leadership Pilot Program
The Mindful Peer Leadership pilot program makes mental health a community matter in Toronto: for the community, with the community, and by the community. We’re bringing mental health into communities by partnering with agencies and empowering their clients to become peer leaders. Training peer leaders in mindfulness for mental health has a ripple effect in making a community more mindful and healthful.
This pilot project extends our work in pushing mental health treatment firmly into the community, through close integration and empowerment of community members themselves. It extends our strategy of integrating awareness and treatment capabilities into the DNA of social service agencies.
We are piloting this program with the following partner agencies:
Progress: as of Summer 2017
From January to April 2017, 19 peers from 5 partner agencies attended the first part of the Train-the-Peer Trainee Program. The training consisted of an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program and 4 days of training on mindfulness interventions and facilitating a mindfulness drop-in program.
The second part of the program was a Training Practicum where our 19 peer leaders, with the support of The Centre’s faculty and agency staff, co-facilitated a weekly mindfulness drop-in program for agency clients and members.
The next step is mentoring the peers and staff as they lead groups of their own. Starting in April, mindfulness drop-in sessions were held for 8 to 12 weeks in Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC), The 519, and are currently being delivered at Fife House, Sistering, and 40 Oaks.
Another set of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) programs, run by The Centre faculty and agency staff trained in previous projects, and supported by our peer leaders, will be held in 3 agencies in the fall, which will mark the end of the program in November.
The peer leaders and agency staff we train will continue to bring mindfulness for mental health to their peers and clients, hopefully for years to come! Each one has the potential to help hundreds of people.
Preliminary results suggest that peer leaders can be trained and equipped to deliver a mindfulness-based mental health support program to their fellow peers, simultaneously increasing their own resilience and self-efficacy.
Through course evaluations and focus groups, peers indicated the following benefits from participating in the training program:
- an increase in acceptance of oneself and others;
- a greater ability to take care of oneself;
- an increase in well-being, gratitude, and enjoyment of being in the moment;
- an increase in patience;
- an increase in connectedness to one’s community;
- an increase in ability to concentrate and focus; and
- an increase in confidence to handle unpleasant situations with self-care.
“Mindfulness has truly transformed me. I was just going through life, not really noticing much before. Practicing mindfulness has opened both my heart and mind. It made me aware how similar we all are. I can relate to others now more openly. I can walk down the street and make eye contact with other people, which is something I always used to avoid. Practicing together in a group is such a profound experience. It has made me more present with others. It’s overpowering to realize how connected we all are.”
– Francis, 40 Oaks Member
“It’s not easy to cope with stress. Mindfulness has helped me a lot. Now when I feel anxious, I have the tools to deal with all these feelings that come up. After taking the mindfulness program, my self-esteem is higher. I feel I can handle my thoughts and emotions in a better way. Mindfulness has had a big impact on my relationships. I am a better listener now, I don’t take things out on others when I feel stressed out. I am able to be more present with my friends and family. Being in a group has been a great experience. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to mediate with other people but I’ve really connected with everyone in my group, and formed close friendships. It was helpful to hear other people share their experiences. It made me feel less alone with my problems. I realized that we were helping each other.”
– Mu, The 519 Member
This project has been made possible by:
If you wish to support our work, you can donate here. Please also consider participating in Mindfulness Challenge 2017, which will fund future projects like this.