Peer Support

Having attended a training workshop yesterday, I though I would jot down my comments and observations. First of all, it was a great session. I was skeptical whether it would be useful for me, a parent, and not someone who is involved with providing these services. But I was wrong. It was very useful and informative and I am happy that I went.

It’s truly an amazing thing to meet new people. You never know what to expect. Keep your mind wide open! You’ll be amazed. I had the pleasure of listening to and speaking with people with various degrees of mental illness. They are remarkable people. What would you think a person would be like who spent a good portion of his or her life (20 years or more) in a mental institution?

It was really inspiring to hear them describe how they viewed themselves and the situation and how others viewed them and treated them. They spoke eloquently and with passion, a passion that we all should have. They reinforced my feeling that you really have to “love your job” in order to get the most out of it. Otherwise, why do it.

These people are heroes. They fill the role of a certified peer specialist in the mental health system. What a tremendous idea to have people who have gone through the system and through a recovery process to help others go through the same process. As was mentioned, they have skills that could only be developed by someone who had or still has a mental illness but has gotten themselves out of the system. Now, they are serving a tremendous service to the community and to themselves by helping others. And isn’t that what each one of us should be doing — helping others.

I was speaking with someone about why there weren’t more people at this training. We talked about logistics and people’s time. We talked about perceived needs for this and that you can only present people with an opportunity to learn or do something. You can’t make them want to do something. You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Then we talked about what she did and then we got into a discussion what I did. Saying that I was just a parent who was concerned about his daughter, led us down another path of discussion. I mentioned how I thought this service would be beneficial to my daughter. I mentioned how amazing it was that these peer support specialists were able to get out of the system and help others. It was inspiring. Then she said, pointing to others where she was seated, that they were all peer specialists.

Amazing, I thought. Amazing that they wanted to help others once they were able to help themselves. They are definitely heroes. Out of adversity have they come. Out of the shackles and confines of a system in which they were hidden. Into the light where they shine brightly on others to help them find the way. What tremendous people they are. What tremendous cornerstones of our community they are. What integral parts of the community they are instead of burdens to the community that they were perceived to be.

I wish them well on their journey.

As I said, I did learn a lot. I hope the questions I asked from a parent’s perspective (and maybe I was the only one there who was just a parent and not part of the system), were not out of place. I don’t think they were and I do appreciate the answers I received. I will definitely act upon them.