Peer support for the mentally ill can be an important part of a recovery program for those suffering from mental illnesses. Who better knows the loneliness, heartache, and despair often accompanying the presence of depression, anxiety, and psychosis than one who has traveled that road.
Picture a small child, six years old, who has just experienced a horrific hallucination. She saw a grotesque ant on the sidewalk. Screaming, she runs into her home to tell her mother who looks up from her ironing board and brushes her away. “You saw a large water bug.” The child is confused, frightened, and doesn’t know how to express her inner turmoil.
She grows up not trusting, believing no one will ever understand her situation. Secrecy becomes her mantra when the hallucinations return during her teen years. That child was me, Barbara Altman, musician, music teacher, and psychotic. I didn’t know it then, but both my mother and I needed peer support for the mentally ill.
She now knows there are plenty of resources, some of which come in the form of peer support, which comes in a variety of contexts including:
Small groups: Usually consisting of six to twelve members, these small gatherings act as a source of comfort , advice, and encouragement for sufferers. Members need not feel alone in these situations. They come together to share sorrows, victories, and plans for their future. Everyone understands their situaion in a non-judgmental manner. These small groups provide peer support for the mentally ill.
Consumer providers: People who have suffered serious mental illness reach out to others and help with treatment. They may act as a job coach and as role models. They use their own experience in recovery to assist others in practical ways. Mental illlness can be a defintie deterant in the job market. Peer support for the mentally ill can come in the form of looking for a job in line with one’s capabilities and talents. Group members may need coaching in appearance, in ways to relate to co-workers, or in appropriate job expectations.
Consumer run services: Consumers plan, assess, and deliver services. These include peer support for the mentally ill, live in settings, case management, and obtaining government benefits. Many group members are employed by government agencies set up to help the mentally ill find and keep jobs. Housing also comes under this heading.
Mental illness can be an incredibly difficult issue to carry. Support from families, communities, and peers can be enormously helpful in the processes of coping and building successful lives.
Accroding to Paul Komarek and Andrea Schroer, authors of “Defying Mental Illness,” battling mental illness focuses on the nuts and the bolts. They recommend five strategies.
1. “Learn about what you are facing.” Get information on your disease. Become informed about its impact.
2. “Find allies to support you.” Get involved in support systems like Nami. Get involved in peer support for the mentally ill groups.
3.”Find resources to work with.” Again, look up community organizations designed to support you in your efforts to cope with your disease.
4. “Plan both long term and short term.”
5. “Follow your plan.”
Mental illness can be challenging, but with help from the community, it can be faced and maanged quite well.
Blessings to all who have suffered and to all who are there to help.
If you have any questions about recovering from depression, anxiety, or psychosis, feel free to contact me at AltmanB@sbcglobal.net.
If you are someone you know is suffering from major depression, showing signs of depression, is manic depressive, or is looking for how to deal with depression please subscribe to Barb’s blog. She has advice on such topics as, coping with depression, teen depression, anxiety and depression, depression in children, and other types of depression disorders. You can visit her website at http://www.depressiontorecovery.com/
Her book “Recovering from Depression, Anxiety, and Psychosis is now available on Amazon here.