Peer specialists use their experience to counsel others with mental illness

Posted on December 18, 2013

nurse consultant Jolene Mui, Lily Chan, the peer specialist at Castle Peak Hospital.

Lily Chan Lei-hung has had more than enough ups and downs for a lifetime. She's has gone from working as a business development manager for a publicly listed American company, to being an unemployed divorcee battling bipolar disorder. Chan certainly knows how mental illness can destroy your life.

But she never thought that her mental illness, which at one point drove her to the edge of suicide, would also paradoxically give her a lifeline. Chan, 46, is the first person with a mental disorder employed by the Hospital Authority to work as a full-time counsellor. The peer specialist scheme was launched two years ago at Castle Peak Hospital as a way to boost the recovery and rehabilitation of mental patients.

The peer specialist programme follows in the footsteps of Western hospitals, according to Dr William Chui Wing-ho, associate consultant with Castle Peak Hospital. "I went to Holland before the launch of the scheme. I saw that the scheme could reduce hospital use and boost illness management there," he says.

Chui says the life experience that a peer specialist gains in overcoming mental illness is something professionals can't get from training.

Armed with some non-clinical training in fields like pharmacology, Chan helps patients stick with their medication, find jobs and build social support networks. Her work duties involve attending case meetings with doctors, counselling patients and their families, and organising focus groups with patients.

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Category(s):Mental Health in Asia, Mental Health Professions

Source material from South China Morning Post


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