Authors: Liz Ward, Cate Bourke, Helen Mildred, VIC
Event: 2001 TheMHS Conference
Subject: COPES (Carers Offering Peers Early Support), book of proceedings
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: COPES (Carers Offering Peers Early Support) is an innovative program which commenced in August 1999 and appears to be the first of its kind in Australia.
COPES employs paid Carer Workers who link carers with mental health services and community supports – making contact, explaining services, helping carers make sense of their experience.
Survey results clearly indicate the majority of carers found COPES ‘extremely useful’. Carers highlighted empathy, through being in the same boat, as a key to the program’s success, as illustrated by one carer’s comment:
‘They were the only people who I felt understood the trauma I was in.’ (Carer respondent, COPES Survey, 2000)
Picture in your mind a rowing boat. There are two figures in the boat, sitting side by side. They have an oar each. They’re facing where they’ve come from and that looks pretty grim. They can’t see what’s ahead of them, but the sea is decidedly choppy. However, it’s interspersed with areas of calm. Together they will deal with the waters ahead. And there’s a lighthouse to help show the way. Together they will get there.
The above analogy describes COPES (Carers Offering Peers Early Support). This program employs two carers to support their peers in navigating the journey that commences with their relative’s first admission into mental health services. This paper describes the COPES program and its development, and discusses the benefits and challenges of carer peer support. Results of a survey of COPES’ clients and staff after the first twelve months examine the value of the program, and this value is encapsulated in the following comment by one of the respondents:
“They were the only people who I felt understood the trauma I was in.” (COPES Survey, 2000)