‘Thinking man in progress’ … That’s the title of the image that illustrates this article, which together with the thoughts below, sketch out the creative thoughts of a peer supporter.
The incentive for organisations to encourage and develop peer support is that it simultaneously helps the support worker and those they support. I do find that that mental illness takes so many forms that finding someone with exactly the same struggles as you is unlikely.
The positives usually lean more towards the comfort that someone else has been through it and there is less of a barrier when it comes to communicating elements of ourselves that we are perhaps fearful to show to the professionals.
For me I don’t find it hard to be open with the professionals so peer support had a slightly different role for me. I spoke to someone with a similar issue to me but who had been through it for longer and therefore had done more research and had knowledge of more resources. We are each a bank of our experience and recovery and everything we have done during that time span. There is so much information out there and the professionals are also a great bank of information. Often they will sign-post, but they have a vast amount of knowledge themselves. After all, they spend their working lives dealing with the issues.
I have always avoided one recovery idea, but have now decided to give it a go, that is mindfulness. I found it slightly… well, boring! Revisiting the idea I decided maybe I was scared. But then I realised maybe the reason I like socialising and being with people is because it’s a form of mindfulness, since it brings you into the here and now and gets you focusing on what is happening now. I learnt that it is like a muscle which needs to be exercised, (working out is never easy!).
As for everyone else in the world… well I like to talk to people outside the mental health services because I am a person other than my illness. I don’t want to label myself as that is all I am. I think social inclusion outside the mental health services is so important. An interesting question is: when you introduce yourself do you state your name and say I have a mental health problem? Or do you say where you are from, or what you like?