Peer support

Mental illnesses are devastating. Even when the dust settles after your initial diagnosis, it's hard to see how there can be anything positive about mental illness. However, recovery is full of surprises.
Unfortunately, stigma is real, and it's dangerous. It is visible in public, and it comes full circle affecting patients and professionals alike. Stigma keeps mental illness in the dark and misunderstood, and often prevents sufferers from seeking the help they need.
I love being a mental health worker in Toledo, but I see our city named on all sorts of lists: "most stressed-out cities," "high violent crime rates," and even "least-livable cities."
My mental illness is part of my identity because of its huge impact on my life. When I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, I thought everything in my life could go back to the way it was before my symptoms got out of hand. I didn't know my life would take a sharp turn in a different direction.
Knowing how to give mental health first aid for suicide prevention is important for everyone, but we often don't know how to do it. After graduating from a community college in 2014, I accepted a position as a peer support specialist at a local mental health agency. Prior to this job, I worked at a group home, and the training was very similar -- first aid, CPR, and nonviolent crisis intervention. However, my new position also required Mental Health First Aid, a formal eight-hour course on how to respond to someone in crisis. The Mental Health First Aid intervention can be crucial in suicide prevention and getting someone the appropriate help they need.
I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in my early 20s, and since then I’ve received many different reactions when disclosing my mental illness. Many people are supportive. Others are curious. Sometimes I face mental health stigma. Writing for HealthyPlace means my diagnosis is out there for anyone to see. I’m fine with that because I want to help and I want to fight stigma. However, in my day-to-day life, I choose whom I want to tell and when I want to tell them. Here are a few of the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences with disclosing my mental illness diagnosis, not necessarily in that order.
A certified peer support specialist is a person in mental health or addiction recovery that uses his or her personal experiences to connect with and help others. I work for a community mental health agency where I provide emotional support and knowledge of resources to others in recovery. Being a certified peer support specialist allows me to give back to my community.
Volunteering aided my recovery from mental illness when I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and bulimia in my early 20s. I volunteered for my local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, and it soon became a great opportunity that helped me take back my life and even lead to an internship. Here are five ways that volunteering can aid mental illness recovery that I discovered during my time at NAMI.
There are three advantages to mental health crisis text lines. Recently, a mental health consumer organization in the greater Indianapolis area started a mental health crisis text line--the 13th such text line in the nation. Also, there is a national mental health crisis text line at 741741 (Suicide Chat Hotline Options). This made me think about three advantages to crisis text lines and how they help mental health consumers in crisis.
Childhood mental disorders are not always the parents' fault. When I graduated from college, my mother dragged me to see a Christian psychiatrist who she was convinced could fix me. She asked the psychiatrist what caused my borderline personality disorder (BPD). The psychiatrist looked her in the eye and explained that BPD is caused by poor parenting. That is not always the case, and we as a society need to change our attitude that childhood mental disorders and illnesses are somehow the parents' fault.