Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Peer Support Is and Isn't

Consumers have to recover. They and their ‘families’ are the people who have to navigate the journey of recovery which is a deeply personal and nuanced process that can be significantly enhanced by the knowledge and experience of their peers. Peer Support is not Case Management. If circumstances warrant peers may provide a case management service. Peers play significant roles in helping consumers recover: accessing emergency services, transitioning successfully from the hospital to living in community, embracing recovery through the use of mental health recovery models developed and facilitated for and by their peers. Peer Support is important throughout the stages of recovery and the continuum of care and should be integrated with treatment, serving to help consumers overcome barriers to successfully using treatment and services, and engaging in recovery. Peers work hand-in- hand with police, emergency services, intensive treatment teams, med-somatic and clinical providers, rehabilitation services, and housing and benefit providers. They work in settings including Recovery Centers, ERs, hospitals, jails, school systems, employers, neighborhoods and communities. We facilitate the transition from everything being about ‘my illness and me’ to me thriving in the context of family and community.

Practically we increase housing stability and improve the capacity of consumers to achieve meaningful lives despite the continued presence of their illness. We help them navigate the mental health system protecting their right to maintain the fine balance between keeping the symptoms that enhance their recovery, their creativity and productiveness, and managing their illness so that it does not interfere with their capacity to achieve.

We are often times the only family a consumer has, and the eyes and ears of the system during the time the consumer is not in treatment. We live with these illnesses. We bring important knowledge and observations in an integrated approach of helping consumers recover.

The long term community impact of having peer support available is that consumers have housing stability, are increasingly able to be more self-sufficient and live more interdependently in community, are healthier while accessing healthcare outside of emergency rooms, have greater success in accessing integrated treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, increase the likelihood of recovery by becoming part of a group and attending recovery meetings, identifying with people who have more recovery than themselves and who they can go to for advice and support throughout their journey of recovery. They have access to services and supports that meet the client where the client is at in whatever stage of change they are.

Research clearly shows that when consumers have access to treatment and recovery services they do better than when they only receive treatment.

In the end, the community is safer, saves money and consumers are giving back to their community.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Damaged Goods

Sometimes as the result of  experiencing serious mental illness, or because the system forces us to define ourselves as disabled in order to get the help we need, we end up feeling like ‘damaged goods’.

When you go the grocery store, ‘damaged goods’ are in a mark-down bin or on the shelf with clearance items, with cans and packages that are dented and scarred, but still for sale.
Most of the time when we get home and open them, there is nothing wrong with the contents.

Despite the negative impact of serious and persistent mental illness, we shouldn’t think of ourselves as ‘damaged goods’ because there’s nothing wrong with the content.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


This morning when I got to the recovery center, I went inside, took off my hat, scarf and coat, and started to think about my work for the day. I sometimes get started early because of the time it affords me for contemplation. I make lists for what I hope to achieve that day, in the coming week and in the near future.

Suddenly from outside, the sound of someone yelling interrupted my peaceful contemplation. I stepped outside my office door, turned and opened the door to the outside. Someone was pacing up and down the parking lot while on their cell phone violently screaming at the person on the other end, accusing them of being a pot head, threatening them, using profanity.

I paused for a moment waiting for the opportunity to interject. None came. My instinct was to raise my voice asking, ‘Who do you think you are, screaming into the phone, pacing up and down the parking lot, flailing your arms, disrupting the quiet of the morning?’… I paused. 

My next thought was, ‘How do I get this person to realize that their behavior is making them sick.’ The pacing, screaming, profanities no matter who they were aimed at, were making and keeping them sick. I waited another minute or two then asked the person in the parking lot to come in and talk to me. He screamed at me. The wrath that was aimed at the person on the phone was now aimed at me.
I stood there and said nothing. A moment later the person was leaving the parking lot. As they left I said, “I love you brother. When you are ready to talk you know where I’ll be.” 

Later that day I was going to Tai Chi class. As I entered the room, I looked to my left. Across the lobby was the person who was screaming in the parking lot. I nodded and went in. We went through the routine, and when the group was over, the leader ended the group with this quote:
“We are shaped by our thoughts.
We become what we think.
When the mind is pure,
Joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
I scribbled it on to a blank piece of paper, then folded it up. As I left the room I walked past the person who had been screaming in the parking lot who was sitting at a dining room table. I quietly laid the paper beside him and kept walking. Later he came back to where I was working and thanked me.
Beyond Serendipity?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

When One Door Closes, Another Opens

I was at a depression support group. It was the week after Thanksgiving. As usual we went around the table checking up with each member. The questions asked were how are you doing and how was your Thanksgiving? When we got to Marcus, there was a moment of silence. Marcus had been coming to the group for quite some time always expressing the loneliness he felt. Events in his past had led him to be a cast out in the community where he lived. Most of his family had ceased having anything to do with him. He had gone through a rough spell where it was necessary for his sister to sell his ailing mother’s home to provide for her care, which left him homeless. He didn’t have a job or a source of outcome. He didn’t have any friends or family.

When Marcus began to speak, he said, ‘I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, but, My mother died Thanksgiving day.’ He paused and while starting to tear up continued,' I loved mother and she was the only one who believed in me when everyone else gave up on me. I should be sad and I am going through the emotions that one expects when something of this magnitude happens. When she died I had just spoken to her. All of her family was at her side. Everyone was crying as might be expected, but everyone in the room was embracing each other. It was as if her death brought us back together.'

'In the days after my mom’s death I have reconnected with my sister who told me she loves me, and my nieces and nephews who I haven’t had much contact with, who are vibrant, enthusiastic, compassionate and caring people. After we gathered at grave site all my family and my mother’s friends convened at the Second Baptist Church where there was a feast out together by church members and fellowship. In the days since the funeral I have kept in contact with new friends and family. Re-connected! It’s as if with my mother’s death one door closed, but anther door opened.'

Thursday, October 25, 2012

World Stroke Day

Monday, October 29th is World Stroke Day, a day dedicated to educating communities around the world about the risks, signs and symptoms of stroke. What better way to celebrate than by encouraging Ohio's lawmakers to pass HB 427 before the session ends and the bill dies? 

Let's make this World Stroke Day really count--send your message now to help get Ohio's stroke bill across the finish line!

Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in the United States and with stroke, time lost is brain lost. Time is of the essence in treating stroke, but in far too many cases a fragmented delivery system prohibits Ohio's stroke victims from receiving the treatment they need in time. HB 427 would provide patients and health care personnel with information about recognized primary stroke centers in Ohio so we can ensure stroke patients get the treatment they need in time to prevent permanent disability or death.

In recognition of World Stroke Day, we hope you'll take a quick moment to do 3 simple things:

1. Click to send your lawmakers a message urging them to pass HB 427 before time runs out:

2. Learn F.A.S.T(F-FACE; A-ARM, S-SPEECH, T-Time) Stroke warning signs:
3. Post to your Facebook page and/or forward this message to your loved ones and encourage them to celebrate World Stroke Day with you by helping us beat stroke in Ohio!

Thank you for helping reduce death and disability from stroke in Ohio!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unquiet Minds

          The Main Place has been promoting recovery and wellbeing for over 25 years. During that time our mission has always included: “By coming to together we are building better lives for ourselves”. In coming together we have learned about each other and our recovery journeys. Whether it has been seeking to over the impact of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, panic and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma, etc…the common element to our recovery has been to learn to come to terms with unquiet minds.

Many of us have sought to achieve recovery and well-being that minimizes the use of med/somatic services. While we acknowledge the importance of treatment in our recovery journey, the process of coming to terms with our unquiet minds has been in large part a deeply personal, self-directed process. Along the way we have found certain things to be true:
  1. Working a recovery plan is essential to getting and staying as well as possible.
  2. Part of that plan should include what one does on a daily basis to maintain recovery and wellbeing, (a daily maintenance plan).
  3. Many of us can point to a persons or persons who were instrumental in helping to navigate the journey.
  4. Adopting a program that depends on principles and not personalities, and doesn’t require you ‘reinvent the wheel’, can be very helpful.
  5. Getting and staying connected to a group of people who are working on their recovery increases the likelihood that we will recover.
  6. Recovery makes possible whatever progress we make. Without recovery our progress in not sustainable.
Members of The Main Place have found numerous things helpful in learning to live with their unquiet minds. Some of these have included, finding someone who will listen and cares, prayer, meditation and/or relaxation, affirmation and positive self-talk, limiting the time you allow yourself to obsess, avoiding people, places and things that are not good for your recovery, learning impulse control, planfulness and responsibility, going to recovery groups and meetings, staying busy, spending time with your pets, listening to church music, and keeping a journal and reading it periodically to see how your thinking has changed.
Peer Support promotes recovery and well-being! At The Main Place we have implemented evidence-based programs like, WRAP, BRIDGES, Wellness-Management and Recovery and Get Connected recognizing that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. We look forward to hearing from others about what works for them and hope that sharing ours provides hope and help with yours.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Recovery – Promoting Heart Healthy Lifestyles

The Main Place has been promoting ‘heart healthy’ practices as part of its overall programming for a number of years. We, (our board, members and staff), adopted the use of numerous tools that promote recovery and well-being (i.e WRAP, WMR, etc…), and as we have, we have taken quiet and persistent action to improve the overall health of persons who choose to work on their recovery at TMP. We have paid more attention to the food that we serve, implemented ‘portion control’ and limited ‘seconds’, made sure there was color in each plate (fruits and vegetables), and limited carbohydrates. We provided education and support for managing diabetes and smoking cessation.

Since June 1, with the help of a grant we received from SAMHSA, TMP has collaborated with The P.E.E.R. Centers in Franklin County, and Safe Harbor Peer Support Services in Delaware and Morrow Counties, seeking to educate consumers and providers about the importance of promoting and living heart healthy lifestyles. Recent data from multiple sources points out the sobering fact that persons experiencing severe and persistent mental illness are likely to die 20-25 years younger than the average person in the US. With that knowledge, our centers sought to do what our brothers and sisters in 12 step programs do to achieve the goals of their recovery.

To achieve change: 
1) We had to have a clear goal and we had to work a program, 
2) We had to replace old habits with new habits so that our mind and bodies adapted to and embraced this change, 
 3) We had to come together frequently to increase our commitment to achieve and maintain these changes, and 
 4) take what was learned from each other in coming together and practice that in our lives.

In June 2012 more than 100 consumers from throughout central Ohio, members of The Main Place in Licking and Knox Counties, The P.E.E.R. Centers in Franklin County, and Safe Harbor Peer Support Services in Delaware and Morrow Counties, made a commitment to achieving a personal wellness goal of their choice. They have worked on their goals at least three times per week over the past three and a half months. On September 5 and 6, 2012 they will be recognized for their progress and the commitment they have made at the Region 9, OEC Annual Conference.

As part of the SAMSHA grant, we will be making videos of consumers at the OEC conference as they tell personal stories of the challenges and successes they have had while working to achieve their recovery goals. These videos will be posted to each center’s Facebook page and website. The center’s websites will be linked to each other for peers and other interested parties to view.

As Consumer-Operated Services our biggest challenge will be to keep the momentum generated by these initiatives alive and thriving. Our biggest asset in doing so will be that by coming together, COSs and their members build better lives for ourselves. And, in doing so, we increase the likelihood that persons experiencing serious and persistent mental illness can and will recover.