'Having those conversations': the politics of risk in peer support practice
Peer support is a fast growing type of service provision within the mental health sector. This study draws on interviews with peer supporters and peer support managers to explore the ways that risks of violence, suicide and self-harm are managed within peer support settings in Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing on Nikolas Rose and other theorists, who define risk thinking as an attempt to ‘discipline uncertainty’, we argue that the philosophy of peer support is in tension with a ‘risk consciousness’ because it sees crisis as a learning opportunity. We contend that peer supporters are pulled towards the ‘risk consciousness’ which pervades the mental health sector, and that they address this by managing risk in various ways. Finally, we show that peer supporters challenge this risk consciousness by working with risk through a philosophy of engagement and relationship. As peer support becomes more integrated into the wider health system, the challenge will be to continue the development of risk practices which work within a strong peer support philosophy.
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