I recently questioned what makes one an ‘expert’ and offered the three main ways in which someone can come to hold certain knowledge or gain a level of prestige. There is taking the route of Research, going through Education, or gaining by Lived Experience.
In the case of ‘lived experience’, I want to talk about Peer Mentorship specifically.
Mentorship itself can be offered in the form of guidance provided by an experienced person in life, in a company or organization, or in an educational institution. But Peer Mentorship, that is a little different and that is where the ‘lived experience’ comes in.
Whether it is brain Injury, HIV, or mental health, a peer offering mentorship is someone who has been there, going through and living with similar circumstances. The job of peer mentors is to provide support, encouragement, and information in relation to an aspect of one’s own personal life.
There are many benefits of Peer Mentorship to not only the mentee or partner who is receiving the support and guidance, but also to the mentor who delivers it.
- Social and Emotional Support
- Reduced isolation and increased hope
- Increased understanding of options, resources, etc.
- Assistance in gaining skills, confidence for future goals
- Personal satisfaction in helping others
- Purpose and productivity
- Feeling valued
- Skill development
As a peer mentor myself I can tell you that I have learned quite a bit, not only about the main subject at hand (in my case: brain injury) and those it affects in the many different ways, but also learning about myself. The exchange of information is not only a social one, but can take on the tones of a brainstorming session offering new perspectives. It is like a passing of the torch in relation to one’s own personal life, any struggles or challenges faced, and the signs of a new and welcomed hope.
Unlike sitting back to shoot the breeze with a friend, peer mentorship is more focused on a certain subject and for the most part remains a little more on the acquaintance side of things. This is not to say that a mentor and mentee cannot become friends, it is just that friendship is usually about two people being and relating to one another on equal ground where as mentorship is about one person helping another gain experience and grow.
By Mark Koning
Mark is the Communications & Administration Coordinator with the AIDS Committee of York Region. Mark is also an Author and Blogger of Challenging Barriers and The BIST Blog. (Brain Injury Society of Toronto)