The peer support program has been a part of KOSHISH, formed as a self help organization, right from its inception in 2008, as it provided a platform where people with psychosocial issues gathered in a safe, secure, confidential, and trustworthy environment, and connected them to people with similar problems where they could share their feelings with others whom they could trust. The stigmatization associated with psychosocial issues, and the lack of support from family and friends, generally ensured that the person enduring psychosocial issues bottled up their feelings and problems, and kept the issue to themselves, which in turn resulted in the development of negative thoughts, stress, isolation, and exhaustion. Understanding this, KOSHISH began peer support programs to address the need of the beneficiaries, a place where they could pour their heart out, and it opened a platform where people with psychosocial disabilities gathered and shared their experiences, their inner feelings and discussed issues concerning their well-being. This gave an impression of them not being alone, and that there are others with similar problems and experiences whom they can trust.
Peer support program is based on an empowerment model that acknowledges the strengths of people who cope skillfully with major mental illness and who can serve as valuable resources to clients. The concept of peer support relates to the creation of an interpersonal context that is respectful, trusting and warm, allowing individuals to find their own answers and empowering them to make changes that will enhance their lives. The effectiveness of peer support lies in the belief that everyone involved recognizes that participants are capable of participating and will be an integral part of their own recovery process. They explore and learn to understand to combat shame and stigma together, enhancing their self-esteem and self-efficacy. They are made aware of their rights and are encouraged to speak up for them. Through participation, they can enhance their social skills, promote their social rehabilitation, and become independent. Different activities like sharing sessions, therapies, and games are organized to improve their physical and cognitive wellbeing and create a strong bond among the group members. This creates a trusting environment where they feel they belong, and can be of assistance to each other.
KOSHISH has been operating peer support/self help groups for almost 9 years now and has provided service to more than 100 peer support members. The strength of the program lies in the trust that the people with psychosocial issues have in the program, which has ensured that the program has been able to sustain for so long. New members continue to put their faith in getting better, and having a better measure of their problem, along with an increasing social and support network. KOSHISH has reached out to people in their own community and will continue to do so. There are 5 groups in operation at the moment (Thimi, Chyamasing, Dadikot and Bageshwori in Bhaktapur and Jawalakhel in Lalitpur) with plans of extending it to other places as per the need of the beneficiaries. Of 100 peer support members, peer support meetings have supported in bringing about following changes based on observation by KOSHISH staffs and information provided by beneficiaries: