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Using Peer Support in Developing Empowering Mental Health Services (UPSIDES): Background, Rationale and Methodology

Puschner, Bernd; Repper, Julie; Mahlke, Candelaria; Nixdorf, Rebecca; Basangwa, David; Nakku, Juliet; Ryan, Grace; Baillie, Dave; Shamba, Donat; Ramesh, Mary; Moran, Galia; Lachmann, Max; Kalha, Jasmine; Pathare, Soumitra; Müller-Stierlin, Annabel; Slade, Mike


Bernd Puschner

Mary Ramesh

Galia Moran

Max Lachmann

Jasmine Kalha

Soumitra Pathare

Annabel Müller-Stierlin

Mike Slade

Julie Repper

Candelaria Mahlke

Rebecca Nixdorf

David Basangwa

Juliet Nakku

Grace Ryan

Dave Baillie

Donat Shamba


Background: Peers are people with lived experience of mental illness. Peer support is an established intervention in which peers offer support to others with mental illness. A large proportion of people living with severe mental illness receive no care. The care gap is largest in low- and middle-income countries, with detrimental effects on individuals and societies. The global shortage of human resources for mental health is an important driver of the care gap. Peers are an under-used resource in global mental health.

Objectives: To describe rationale and methodology of an international multicentre study which will scale-up peer support for people with severe mental illness in high-, middle-, and low-income countries through mixed-methods implementation research.

Methods: UPSIDES is an international community of research and practice for peer support, including peer support workers, mental health researchers, and other relevant stakeholders in eight study sites across six countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia. During the first two years of UPSIDES, a series of qualitative studies and systematic reviews will explore stakeholders’ perceptions and the current state of peer support at each site. Findings will be incorporated into a conceptual framework to guide the development of a culturally appropriate peer support intervention to be piloted across all study sites. All intervention and study materials will be translated according to internationally recognised guidelines.

Expected Impact: UPSIDES: will leverage the unique expertise of people with lived experience of mental illness to strengthen mental health systems in high-, middle- and low-income countries. UPSIDES will actively involve and empower service users and embed patient-centeredness, recovery orientation, human rights approaches, and community participation into services. The focus on capacity-building of peers may prove particularly valuable in low-resource settings in which shortages of human capital are most severe.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Apr 5, 2019
Journal Annals of Global Health
Electronic ISSN 2214-9996
Publisher Ubiquity Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 85
Issue 1
Article Number 53
Pages 1-10
Keywords peer support, severe mental illness, implementation science, global mental health, recovery
Publisher URL


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