Providing Opportunities for Peers with Shared Experiences to Come Together for Emotional Well-Being

“Peer support is extremely important. When someone says to me, ‘I know how you feel,’ there’s no better feeling than knowing I'm not alone.”

Marisa Blanco, Peer Supporter for DDH’s Online Peer Support Community

The Disaster Distress Helpline’s online peer support communities offer individuals a chance to connect with and receive emotional health support from people with similar lived experiences.


Vibrant has employed and trained 29 DDH Peer Supporters, all of whom have lived experience as disaster survivors or responders


DDH Crisis Counselors responded to 175 Crisis Support Over Messenger chats and DDH Peer Supporters provided close to 3,500 supportive interactions with over 2,000 OPSC members

Online Peer Support Communities

In an effort to broaden our reach to disaster survivors and responders, in 2021 Vibrant’s Disaster Distress Helpline launched an “Online Peer Support Communities” program through Facebook Groups. These private, moderated, online communities offer opportunities for individuals to connect with others who have experienced similar events, share accurate information and trusted resources, and help one another continue to heal and achieve emotional well-being after natural or human-caused disasters.

Deac: Each person we interact with online – whether they be a survivor of mass violence, or a parent or caregiver or healthcare worker impacted by COVID – has a unique story. And while no two stories are alike, the chance to connect with peers who have had a similar experience can promote connection, offer hope, and help lay a foundation for emotional wellness. 

Kayla: Because we offer free support on Facebook Groups, anyone can hop online at any time to access a trained, empathetic DDH Peer Supporter who has gone through a similar experience as your own. 

As a parent of a 7- and a 2-year old, I work with parents and caregivers. When the Facebook Group was first opened to the public, we were all grappling with school lockdowns due to COVID. There was a lot of anxiety around the virus – keeping kids and families healthy and safe. Now, our conversations have shifted to the day-to-day challenges that come with raising kids. Every situation is different. I hope to offer each person a fresh perspective and access to resources they might not have otherwise found. 

Marisa: I provide emotional health support to society’s frontline heroes – our healthcare workers. At the height of the pandemic, there was a lot of engagement on our Facebook Group about hospital staff being underpaid and overworked. Healthcare workers felt exhausted, angry, and burned out. They had to put everyone else before themselves in order to save lives. Our DDH Online Peer Support Community has allowed each person to ‘let it all out’, feel seen, and be heard.

Deac: I began to identify as a “mass shooting survivor” after 2017, but that wasn’t a club I voluntarily signed up for. In the aftermath of my experience with mass violence, I isolated and disassociated from family and loved ones. I felt like my experience was so outlandish and unrelatable, I questioned who could truly emphasize. I was gratefully met with a new mindset when I discovered a peer support group that I felt safe in. So, I know firsthand the power of listening to survivor stories. When this job as a DDH Peer Supporter for survivors of mass violence came up, I thought, “Wow! This is a dream job to help the community I’m part of!” 

Kayla: Sometimes it’s easier to connect with someone who doesn’t know you. That anonymity offers a totally different perspective than what you’re used to. 

Marisa: Seeking help while you’re behind a computer screen or phone can feel like a safe space, too, for folks who are struggling. I know that it’s harder for me to pick up the phone when I'm in distress. 

Deac: Vibrant prepares all the DDH Peer Supporters for this job with in-depth training. We complete a variety of modules and practice real-life scenarios we will likely encounter. But the exceptional aspect of our preparation for the job is that our training is continuous. We are constantly offered opportunities to improve our knowledge and skills so that we can provide the best support possible to people in need. 

Marisa: I grew up in an abusive, toxic household. I cried out a lot for help and I wasn’t heard – by school counselors, police officers, and other adults. My job now as a DDH Peer Supporter is to provide that kind of help for others– listening to their stories, helping them to feel seen, and giving them resources so that they can feel well. This job matters so much to me. It is intertwined with my purpose here on earth.