May is Mental Health Matters Month and this year I would like to provide you with a ‘Peer Perspective’ on mental health. What is a peer?
Definition of Peer
1: one that is of equal standing with another: EQUAL
From SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): What is a peer worker? The role of the peer support worker has been defined as “offering and receiving help, based on shared understanding, respect and mutual empowerment between people in similar situations.” Peer support has been described as “a system of giving and receiving help” based on key principles that include “shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful.
This article is being written from a ‘peer perspective’ by a person with lived experience in mental health diagnosis and ongoing recovery (it’s always a process)…
Living with mental illness and having a diagnosed mental health condition does not make one person different from anyone else. Those of us living with a mental health condition have families, friends and jobs; we pay bills, volunteer in our community, enjoy activities like music, sports, gardening and many other things that you and your family enjoy. We care about our communities, we value the relationships we form and the contribution we make to the world.
What prevents some people from seeking help? Being fearful of judgement and stigma prevent many from seeking the help they want and need. The pressure of societal norms and being thought of as ‘different’ can be a factor in not wanting to be labeled as ‘having a mental illness.’ It is unfortunate that fear can keep so many from receiving treatment. If we change the way we think and talk about mental health we will gain an understanding that asking for help is brave, showing vulnerability is courageous and helping ourselves is empowering.
What are some factors that can inhibit or interfere with mental health wellness and recovery?
Life circumstances, stress, being busy all the time, living in a constant state of distraction and overwhelm can leave us disconnected from ourselves, each other and the rest of the world — which can lead to depression, anxiety and a loss of the ability to endure challenge and change. ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and trauma can cause mental and physical health disparities across the span of a lifetime. Maybe we need a new perspective on the issue of mental health — we all struggle at some point in our lives and we need to know that it’s ok to not be okay. Feelings are healthy, we should allow ourselves and others permission to feel deeply — good, bad or indifferent at times.
SAMHSA definition of Recovery: Recovery is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.
What does it take for someone to get well and stay well? First and foremost is HOPE, having hope that life can and will get better is key to mental health wellness. Along with hope would be support and connection - they are two of the most valuable tools in mental health wellness and recovery. We as a community can influence wellness, promote resilience, build strength and create true connection for those that need it the most.
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives” ~Bessel A. Van Der Kolk, MD
Ask yourself “Do people feel welcome and safe in my presence?”
Want to know what you can do to help? Check on your family, your friends, coworkers and neighbors. Start a conversation, find out where someone can get help and support them while they seek help. Listen to them and validate what they tell you; you don’t have to understand mental illness to empathize, comfort and support someone. Learn about ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences), being Trauma Informed and Resilience. Visit Each Mind Matters https://www.eachmindmatters.org/ for more information and to learn how you can get involved in California’s Mental Health Movement.
~ Connect ~ Reach Out ~ Inspire Hope ~ Offer Help ~
To learn more about accessing mental health services and supports, contact Amador County Behavioral Health at (209) 223-6412.
Peer Support in Amador County:
NAMI Amador (209) 256-1293
Sierra Wind Wellness and Recovery Center (209) 223-1956
Editor note: Vanessa Compton is a Peer Personal Services Coordinator for Amador County Behavioral Health.