Calling all Peers!

By: Jason Allington, NAMI Metro Suburban Employment Specialist

NAMI depends on robust peer support. This is a proven and effective means of mental health support.
The peer movement in mental health promotes the idea that people with mental illnesses are experts in their own lived experiences and can play a meaningful role in supporting others who are going through similar challenges.

The peer movement also promotes recovery-oriented mental health care, which focuses on empowering people to take control of their own recovery process and engage in activities that promote their overall well-being. This approach emphasizes the importance of hope, mutual respect, and personal responsibility in the recovery process.

Here are a few examples of the peer movement in action:

1. Peer support groups like NAMI Connection: These are groups led by people living with mental illness who are trained to provide support, empathy, and guidance to others going through similar struggles.
2. Peer-run organizations like NAMI: These are organizations that are run by people with lived experience of mental illness, who use their expertise to provide support, advocacy, and education to others.
3. Peer specialists like CRSS: These are mental health professionals who have personal experience with mental illness and use their unique perspectives to provide support, advocacy, and guidance to others. Peer specialists can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, Living Rooms, clinics, and community centers.

In my personal life, NAMI Connection, the Saturday weekly peer-support group, kept me alive during my lowest times following a suicide attempt in 2008. Having a place to go to be with people who understood what I was feeling was essential to my recovery.  

The life-saving help NAMI Metro Suburban gave me when I was at my lowest, inspired me to be active in peer support.  Now, I facilitate the weekly Saturday Connection group, I have served on the board of directors, and spoken scores of times in hospital psychiatric units, in which I shared my story of hope and encourage hospitalized peers to connect with any NAMI affiliate upon discharge.   Most recently I have come to work for NAMI full-time as an employment specialist.

This experience has given my life meaning while also being an instrumental factor in my own recovery.   It’s a two-for-one deal!

I encourage you to consider letting your lived experience be a source of hope and support for your peers.  Everybody wins when we help each other. To learn more about NAMI Peer opportunities, check frequently on our website. You are never alone when you connect with NAMI!

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