Talk to Someone Who "Gets It"
Nicole E Foster, JD
Peer support is the support offered to someone who has been through similar situations and circumstances. It provides a connection with someone who has lived through experiences and come out on the other side, able to share similar struggles.
When you are struggling with mental health or substance use disorder you may feel isolated and unable to connect with others. By forming a connection with another person who has been there, it can be a turning point towards recovery. You have someone you can turn to, connect with, be completely honest with, and not have to worry about being judged. You learn each other’s viewpoints of the world, and why you may have come to the struggle you are currently experiencing. Another benefit of peer support is that it offers a reciprocal relationship, where you are both able to offer support to each other.
Recovery from mental health and substance use challenges is not a straight-line process. Having setbacks and relapses are a normal part of recovery. Peer support is assisting each other to get back on track without judgment. It is about finding resources together that help you with recovery.
Peer support is about helping to remove any obstacles that you may face in your recovery. Perhaps transportation is an issue. You can’t find a ride to a meeting because you don’t have a driver’s license. Peer support workers help with these obstacles; they walk with you. Some days we just need a cheerleader/motivator. It is a hard day, and we don’t think we can make it through without a drink, or whatever unhealthy coping mechanism we are trying to move away from. Peer support workers are there to remind you how far you have come, even if it is just one day. That is one day closer to your recovery.
Peer support workers are a way to connect to others who have had a similar experience, so you do not feel alone in your journey. Peer support makes sure that you always have people to reach out to when you need it. There are times when relapse happens and we need to be able to start where we are at in our healing without judgment, continuing to instill hope.
You are a community of fishermen, you know the struggles that you have faced along the way and that it is not an easy life. If you are interested in learning more about how to support others experiencing a mental health struggle, please consider taking a Mental Health First Aid* class. They are offered throughout the state. You can contact MHFA@namimaine.org for more information. You can reach out to NAMI-Maine’s Helpline at 207-622-5767 ext. 1 and we can help you connect to a Peer Support Worker near you.
*Mental Health First Aid is a skills-based training that teaches participants who are 18 years or older how to identify, understand, and respond to someone who is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem.
The course trains participants to help people who may be experiencing a mental health problem or crisis. You learn:
Risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems.
Information on depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, and addiction disorders.
A 5-step action plan to help someone developing a mental health problem or in crisis.
Where to turn for help — professional, peer, and self-help resources.
Mental Health First Aid teaches about recovery and resiliency – the belief that individuals experiencing these challenges can and do get better, and use their strengths to stay well.
A note from MCFA staff: Fishermen Wellness is an on-going series by NAMI Clinical Staff. Each week a new topic will be featured pertaining to mental health and wellness for fishermen. We hope that this information is helpful to fishermen during COVID-19 and also under regular circumstances. Thank you to the clinical staff at NAMI for their support and insight during this time. Together, we persevere.