Mental health of the young and mental health of the young suffering from cancer
is a significant conflict between the demands of the developmental stage and
the demands of the disease
They want more independence from their parents and they gradually start
developing a sense of independence and taking control of their lives, but
cancer and demands of treatment provoke a sense of dependence, lack of
independence, and loss of control over their lives
Peers gain tremendous importance in adolescent’s life, a sense of belonging and
closeness in the peer group develops, but cancer provokes a sense of isolation
and not belonging based on the uniqueness of the experience that a person goes
through during the diagnosis and treatment.
A sense of sexual identity and attraction develops, but cancer treatment can
affect sexual health and a personal sense of sexual attractiveness
Executive functions, such as planning, organization, mental flexibility, and
reasoning are being developed, but cancer treatment impairs cognitive
functions, and may also affect achievement at school or at work, as well as
making significant educational and career decisions
There is a very strong need to shape their future, to make meaningful plans for
the future, but the disease and the treatment make the future seem vague,
is peer support?
support is a term that refers to the exchange of support among people who share
the same experience, do not necessarily have vocational education, and use the
experience they had gone through as a source of support. Peer support groups
provide environment for exchanging experiences, accepting new points of view,
considering concerns and doubts, raising awareness of personal strengths and
resources, and gaining the confidence for facing the future.
peer support is a community connected to a specific site, in which members
exchange information, provide each other with emotional support, help each other
cope more easily with problems that trouble them, and develop confidence in
their problem-solving abilities.
and young adults gladly use the Internet to satisfy diverse needs
characteristic of this age group, which is the reason why online peer support
is well received at that age. The advantage of Internet support is its
accessibility to people who are tied to their homes or live in geographically
remote areas. In addition, it ensures anonymity and a higher level of privacy
for those who do not wish to reveal their identities or are too reserved to
share intimate details concerning their lives in person.
Why is peer support important for
adolescents and young adults with cancer?
Adolescents and young adults suffering
from cancer face challenges which are typically important at this age, such as starting
romantic relationships, making decisions about reproduction, tackling issues
related to identity development, establishing a sense of managing your own life
and becoming independent, making educational and career decisions, etc. The
experience of having cancer requires additional effort to overcome these
challenges. Peer support communities help young people feel that they are not
alone in this complex procedure of fighting a disease that fundamentally
changes their way of life. Users of peer support cite the opportunity to share
their experience with someone else who has gone through the same health crisis
as the main benefit of peer support. Authenticity, shared experience and
empathy are among the most cited factors that provide basis for getting closer,
opening up and becoming open to receiving support.
What are the specific benefits of
Sharing emotions about one’s own situation and the challenges that one faces
brings emotional relief and a sense of acceptance and understanding
Exchange of information on available resources in the community and practical
support regarding access to these resources encourages the feeling of managing
3. Exchange of experience and the opportunity to
learn from others who have been in the same or similar situation has a positive
effect on confidence in finding solutions to problems
Belonging to a support community helps reduce isolation and feeling of loneliness
What does peer support entail?
support facilitates dealing with feelings of fear, anger, sadness, and
loneliness by creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding and compassion and
acknowledging feelings of all the parties involved.
support is the process of sharing information, usually gained through personal
experience, about treatment types and procedures, medication and its side
effects, diet, exercise and physical activity, mental health, reproduction,
romantic relationships, education, careers, etc.
Support in overcoming problems and
help each other change their attitude towards frustration and difficult
experiences so as to handle them better and find a positive side which makes
even some of the hardest experiences valuable.
Support related to identity and life
encourage each other to accept cancer, the cancer treatment, its consequences
and everything that life after cancer brings. Together they attempt to find
meaning in what they have been through or what they are still going through and
help each other embrace this experience as a part of their identity.
The importance of supervision
peer support projects are complex. It is unrealistic to anticipate everything
that awaits us once the online communication starts. Many things are not
entirely under control and it is to be expected that supporters will face
challenges which were not discussed in detail during the training and for which
they are not prepared.
the success of peer support largely depends on good monitoring and supervision,
as well as continued education. Monitoring and supervision enable the supporter
to take challenges in their stride, positively impact the supporter’s
confidence and prevent burnout.
Supervision is a type of support to supporters. It entails regular
meetings of supporters for the purpose of supervision. The goal of supervision
meetings is to preserve the emotional and psychological well-being of
supporters and to give them the necessary skills and knowledge which are
required in realistic support situations. In these meetings, we discuss typical
topics which arise in communication, as well as typical challenges in texting
and emotional aspects of communication and support giving. These topics can be
discussed in groups or individually with a professional.
Monitoring includes regular meetings of supporters with a project
coordinator and discussion of important practical matters which impact the
quality of peer support. It entails providing logistic support to supporters,
monitoring the frequency, duration, and type of given support, overseeing the
schedule, individual engagement and the workload of supporters, as well as the
frequency of follow-up support, and providing additional training and