Peer support is a core activity of the Finnish Heart Association. Peer support means providing voluntary and reciprocal sharing and support in a compassionate and respectful atmosphere.
Your peer support mentor listens, encourages and is respectful. He or she is a perfectly ordinary person with a strict obligation of confidentiality who can help and understand someone else in a similar situation. Peer supporters can also work in cooperation with professionals. The person providing peer support can also be somebody who has experienced heart disease within their close circle, as illness always has an impact on the people around the patient.
Find your own support
Peer support is voluntary work coordinated by the heart associations in Finland and is free of charge for those who need it. You can get in touch with a support person through your local heart association or the Heart Districts. The support people for the most common cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, heart-bypass surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) are found through the Heart Districts.
The support network for patients suffering from cardiomyopathy is available through their patient organisation, called Karpatiat ry, while people with sarcoidosis get their support people through their patient organisation SYKE ry, and people with congenital heart disease and their families can find a support person through the patient organisation Sydänlapset ja -aikuiset (the Finnish Association of Heart Children and Adults).
Some rare heart conditions also have peer support networks and the Finnish Heart Association will provide information upon request.
Support people work in many different ways
More than 500 people are engaged in peer support through the heart associations in Finland. They are people who have themselves been or had a loved one diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease. Peer supporters share the knowledge of the experience of what it is like to be a heart patient and how one can deal with the illness.
The peer supporter listens, shares experiences, encourages, and passes on information. They do not do household or other chores.
Peer supporters can also be in charge of heart clubs, give lectures to patients or be peer instructors on rehabilitation courses, and visit people in hospital if asked to do so.
Peer supporters are trained by the Finnish Heart Association and are bound by confidentiality. Peer supporters take a two-day peer-support training course given by the Heart Association and take part in meetings and instruction events arranged by Heart Districts.