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Background: Peer support is being integrated within mental health services to further the development of a recovery approach. However, the most effective models and formats of intervention delivery are unknown. We conducted this systematic review and meta-analysis to determine the effectiveness of peer support for improving outcomes for people with lived experience of mental health conditions, when delivered as group interventions. Methods: Studies reporting randomised controlled trials of group peer support interventions for people experiencing mental health conditions were identified by searching MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Embase and Cochrane CENTRAL, from inception until July 12th 2019 and undertaking supplementary searches. Included studies were assessed for risk of bias and meta-analyses were conducted if three or more trials provided usable data. Results: Eight trials met eligibility criteria, providing data from 2131 participants. Six trials had either high or unclear risk of bias. Interventions were categorised as mutual support groups, or peer support groups, sub-categorised as anti-stigma or self-management interventions. Meta-analyses were only possible for peer support groups and five outcomes. We found evidence that group peer support may make small improvements to overall recovery but not hope or empowerment individually, or to clinical symptoms. Evidence for effectiveness for outcomes which could not be meta-analysed was mixed. Conclusions: Findings from the few eligible trials suggest group peer support interventions may be specifically effective for supporting personal recovery and have a limited impact on other outcomes, though there were some risks of bias to study findings. Interventions were heterogeneous and most social outcomes were absent in the literature, highlighting further limitations to the current evidence-base. There is insufficient evidence available from trials of group peer support torecommend the routine implementation of these interventions across mainstream mental health services at present. More high-quality trials of peer-developed, group peer support interventions are needed in order tomake firm conclusions about intervention effectiveness.
Lyons, N., Cooper, C., & Lloyd-Evans, B. (2021). A systematic review and meta-analysis of group peer support interventions for people experiencing mental health conditions. BMC Psychiatry, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-021-03321-z