John Beaton BirchwoodA mental health charity has appointed the first peer support worker in the Highlands of Scotland.

Birchwood Highland has appointed Inverness-based John Beaton to the role, which will see him share his own experience of mental illness to help others in recovery.

Over the past three years Beaton, 43, has become a peer support advocate in a voluntary role with HUG Action for Mental Health, which has been instrumental in supporting his recovery and informing his passion for peer support working. As a result of his work he was invited to sit on the national strategy board for the Scottish Recovery Network as an ‘Expert by Experience’.

Along with his work at Birchwood Highland Beaton consults as a recovery activist to NHS Highland, the Social Work Department and the Scottish Government.

“I am delighted to fulfil the role of peer support worker at Birchwood Highland, the very role I had petitioned for long and hard,” Beaton said. “It has been an emotional time as not only have I fulfilled an ambition but have been offered another route to my own recovery.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to unpack the training I have sought over the period of my own recovery, having achieved practitioner level in Wellness Recovery Action Planning, Mindfulness Meditation and Auricular Acupuncture. 2015 also heralds the first year of the PDA [Professional Development Award] in Peer Support at The University of the Highlands and Islands, an innovative HNC level qualification which Birchwood Highland is generously sponsoring my attendance at.”

Emily Stokes, chief executive of Birchwood, added: “Peer support workers use their insight, mutuality, empathy, and commitment in their relationship with service users. I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to the role than John.

“Peer support workers can help teams to overcome the ‘them and us’ relationship which is so often prevalent in mental health services and hence allows us to be more effective in the services we offer.”