The Peer Support Revolution
By Peter Hawes
So what is peer support?
Wikipedia defines Peer Support as -------->
“Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other “
Wait a minute… Don’t we already do that?
Come on guys we have been doing this since day one. Remember being in the psych ward, developing friends in there, sharing stories and advice? Or hanging with your group of friends at the PDRS drop in center and talking through problems, offering advice and opinions?
So wait, we already been doing this?
That’s correct we have all already been doing this for a long time, the only thing is it was never recognized as ‘Peer Support’. I just knew it as chillin’ with my crew.
Well now we are approaching a revolution in psychiatric treatment, where a lot of truths have come out about the system as a whole. Without going into the nitty gritty details, even the system is beginning to work out that their ways don’t work, but rather create revolving door patients who are the embodiment of dis-empowerment.
Because let’s be honest, we do it better. Nobody knows what we are going through like others going through the same thing.
Now is the time to unite and jump on the peer support revolution because it’s through unification that we will get emancipation and validation, not frustration and lack of communication that the system has been providing us for years. (Sorry I got on a roll with the ‘acions’ ending words but you get the gist of what I mean)
Thankfully we are in an age of change where all these opportunities are possible. Even recovery is possible; I should know I have done the recovery journey, it's hard but worth doing and I will tell you what, it’s made a lot easier by being surrounded and supported by my peers.
Well this all sounds great but how does one start a peer support group?
Well for starters you work out if you’re targeting a select bunch of people,
Do you want to start a peer support group for all those diagnosed with mental illness?
Will it be just for people with bipolar?
Even better will it just be a recovery focused group?
Any other combination?
The example I will use is a guy named Bob who has bipolar.
(or rather the symptoms of bipolar. Bob had multiple traumas and an unstable childhood which is more the cause of his symptoms but for the sake of this article we will focus on common understandings of where these symptoms come from rather than a psychoanalysis of bobs life.)
Anyway Bob has his highs and lows, his emotional extremes. But bob has found that for some reason dancing really helps him. He dances when he is manic and it burns of his energy and that keeps bob out of trouble and also keeps him from being impulsive and helps dissipate the extreme emotional responses. When Bob is depressed, bob studies choreography and chooses his dance music, this helps bob keep his mind occupied when he is on a downer.
Bob loves dancing and finds his way of dealing with his symptoms very helpful but often bob wishes he had people to dance with. He often wonders if others with bipolar would benefit from dancing.
One day bob hears about peer support groups and thinks to himself “Wait, I could do that with a dancing group”
Manic Monday the song starts playing in bobs head.
So Bob decides to start the group and organize it to meet on a Monday, and yep, he calls the group Manic Monday Self Help Group.
Bob starts looking into what he needs to make this group happen.
As it turns out bob needs cash and bob needs a venue and advertising to get his group out there.
Bob does not know how to do any of these things. Bob slumps into a deep dark depression and sadly ends up hospitalized.
While in hospital Bob meets Ben and Dave who have also been admitted for bipolar episodes.
They all get talking about Bobs idea for the Manic Monday group and decide to meet up after they get out and work together to make this happen. Whilst they’re in there they plan a lot.
Turns out Ben is a wiz on fund-raising and knows a lot of ways to raise funds from crowd funding that he learned watching you-tube tutorials to sourcing products from overseas suppliers such as www.dhgate.com and http://www.aliexpress.com to sell at markets to raise funds.
Strangely turns out that Dave knows nothing about hiring a venue but he does have the type of personality that he will go in to anywhere and inquire about venues. Dave has a lot of charisma and that provides an aspect of Dave’s personality that everyone likes, he has great people skills.
So when discharged from the psych ward these three get together and Ben jumps on crowd funding platforms such as http://www.gofundme.com/ and starts a campaign to help raise funds to get this group started.
Ben also does a Google search for crowd funding sites and finds three more he signs up for and puts a campaign on each sites he found on this link http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/crowdfunding-sites/
Ben also then jumps on https://www.fiverr.com/ A site where you can hire freelancers for $5 and then Ben searches for crowd funding and finds four adds he's happy with that will publicize the crowd funding campaign so it reaches over 70,000 People.
Ben also sees on Fiveer upon searching a lot of ads for something called ‘http://teespring.com/’. Upon further research, Ben finds out this is a unique crowd funding website where they use T-shirts to raise funds.
Ben decides to create a campaign but not having any skills in design he hires another guy on fiver to do a T-shirt design for him. Then Ben hires one more guy to advertise the tee-spring campaign.
Ben having spent $30 on all this goes back and tells Bob and Dave who put in $10 each to reimburse Ben. Everyone’s put in $10 each and all’s fair.
Meanwhile Bob has been preparing a list of all the things needed, dance routines and even some flash mob ideas to promote awareness and reduce stigma. He also designed a flyer that he's put on all the local notice boards advertising the group starts in 6 weeks.
Dave has been going to all local community centers, local halls and even libraries and universities, asking them about room hire and has secured a draft of ten places they can hire some require a rental fee some do not.
So as you can see all 3 of these guys working together set up a bunch of fund-raising avenues, found a place to rent and got a flier up and going.
Now this would seem like a hypothetical situation I am using to emphasis my point about how easy it is to set up a peer support group, would it not?
Well for the most part it is. There is no Bob or Ben or Dave and sadly no manic Monday self-help support group for bipolar.
However there are 3 young people who shall remain nameless who last year following the very real steps I have included in this article managed to raise $56,750 to start their new self-help group.
Unbelievable what we can all do when we unite.
So if you got an idea to start a peer support group, don’t be afraid make it happen. If you feel it’s too much for you to do then grab some other peers and work together to make this group a reality.
I started a whole organization I ran for 5 years that took $160,000 a year of my money to run. It reached and benefited multiple people. Sure we had our ups and downs but the people benefited outweighed the trouble makers and me and my team had a hell of a lot of fun along the way.
So raise your fists in the air and scream ‘Viva La Revolution!’ and join the peer revolution.
As nobody knows it better than those living it,
Thus we are our best chances at recovery.
Feel free to send me a contact request at one of our sites www.empoweringvoicesinc.com or www.psychpatientnomore.com