People with lived experience have a wealth of knowledge and skills to offer - Mark Soanes

Imagine a world where the learning and experiences from some of the darkest and most difficult times in your life are seen as something precious and valuable that can be used to help others.

A world where we harness the knowledge of people with lived experience of mental health challenges in new employment opportunities. Where lived experience is more, or of equitable value to a traditional university degree or years of work experience. Creating career pathways for those starting or re-entering the world of work while helping to ensure everyone can access the mental health support they need when they need it.

I joined Scottish Recovery Network in May 2022 after spending many years working across the private, then the third sector. Through my roles in welfare to work I supported people with long-term health issues to move back into employment, education, or training. There were two key elements to my work. One was to build people’s confidence, belief and skills, supporting them to create their own personal toolkit along the way. The second was engaging with organisations, persuading them that the people we worked with were talented, skilled and hardworking. To show people’s worth despite them not meeting the traditional and often limiting employment criteria. This work allowed me to see a great number of people fulfil their potential and give themselves the self-belief and good life they deserved.

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My current role as Network Manager at Scottish Recovery Network has many similarities. Like a growing number of organisations, we believe that people with lived experience have a wealth of knowledge and skills to offer. We want to transform Scotland’s mental health system into one that embraces a workforce powered by lived experience.

Mark Soanes, Network Manager, Scottish Recovery Network

One of the ways we see this happening is through Peer Worker roles. These roles intentionally use someone’s lived experience of mental health recovery to help support others in similar circumstances. This can be incredibly empowering for all parties, creating mutual relationships of support and shared wisdom. The role lends itself to a whole-system, cross-sector approach and has proven to be effective in different settings. It’s a role that complements and eases the burden of existing medically-focused support systems. It brings to the table new ways of creating safe spaces where people accessing support are empowered to lead their own recovery while having someone walk alongside them on their journey.

The momentum growing around Peer Worker roles in Scotland is encouraging. We hear more and more about the positive impact. However, to truly embed Peer Worker roles in our mental health system there needs to be more understanding of and investment in this approach to mental health support.

At Scottish Recovery Network we will continue to champion the development of peer support approaches and Peer Workers roles. In fact in the New Year we are launching a new resource to help you do the same.

Getting people back into work, improving access to services and supporting mental health recovery. Just imagine…

Sign up here to find out more –

Mark Soanes, Network Manager, Scottish Recovery Network



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