Peer support after brain injury

Many people following traumatic brain injury (TBI) report struggling with a range of challenges. We believe the opportunity to talk and share their experiences with someone who has also experienced TBI can help them make sense of what is happening and help them move on with their life. We refer to this kind of support as peer mentoring.

We are setting up a peer mentoring service in Auckland, Northland and Gisborne and wrapping some research around that so we can explore whether or not peer mentoring can make a difference for people following TBI.

Evaluating a sustainable model of peer mentoring in traumatic brain injury

The burden of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on the individual, their whānau, and society is significant and enduring. We have found that existing service provision does not address ongoing needs. There is increasing evidence for the benefit of peer mentoring interventions across a diversity of populations. This study is designed to see if a peer mentoring service could address some of the service gaps for people living with a TBI.

A peer mentor is someone who has had a TBI who is happy to talk things through and share their recovery experiences with someone who is new to TBI. A peer mentor spends time with someone who has had a more recent injury - they might share their own experiences and stories of their TBI, they can provide a safe space for people new to TBI to talk about their fears and concerns, and they can support people to get out into the community and do the things that matter to them

We tried this approach on a small scale in Auckland and found this to be acceptable and beneficial for both those acting as mentors and those they were mentoring (See doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020672). We are now setting up a peer mentoring service for people with TBI in Gisborne, Auckland and Northland.

This study is a randomised pragmatic waitlist trial with process evaluation design, and aims to test effectiveness of peer mentoring for improving participation, health and well-being outcomes following TBI compared to usual care.

Using service coordinators based in the three centres, we plan to recruit and train as mentors 18 people who are at least one year and up to six years post TBI to deliver the mentoring intervention. The mentors will be paired up with one or more of the 46 mentee participants. Mentee participants will be people over 16 years with moderate or severe TBI or people who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury and who still have symptoms at least six months later that continue to affect their daily life. TBI injury can be up to three years  ago. They will be randomly allocated to receive the mentoring on sign up or 9 months later .

The mentoring intervention involves up to eight face-to-face sessions spread over five months. The intervention is designed to be flexible and tailored to the specific needs of each pair. The core focus of these sessions will be around building connectivity and sharing experiences of recovery with a focus on community participation.

If our findings are positive they will contribute to the development of a service framework for ongoing implementation of a peer mentoring service for people after TBI.

Further details

Taking part

Information videos


  • Kersten, P., Cummins, C., Kayes, N., Babbage, D., Elder, H., Foster, A., Weatherall, M., Siegert, R., Smith, G., McPherson, K. (2018). Making sense of recovery after traumatic brain injury through a peer mentoring intervention: a qualitative exploration. BMJ Open, 8(10). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-020672

Project details

Health Research Council of NZ

Principal investigator:
Prof Nicola Kayes

Research team:
Christine Cummins, Greta Smith, Mark Weatherall, Jo Fadyl, Paula Kersten, Hinemoa Elder, Allison Foster, Bradon Te Ao, Christine Howard-Brown

Nicola Kayes

Key Collaborators:
ABI Rehabilitation, ACC, Gains@Geneva, Te Hiku Hauora

October 2018 – March 2023