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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features December 17, 2014


10/6/2013 6:00:00 AM
Peer support an important component of mental illness treatment
West Yavapai Guidance Clinic


Mental illness awareness week, Oct. 6 - 12, is good time to share information on a treatment service that has gained popularity and is more common than ever now in programs that help persons with mental illness. Peer support services are defined essentially as getting help from someone who has been there. People with similar experiences may be able to listen, give hope and guidance toward recovery in a way that is different, and may be just as valuable, as professional services. Peer services include mutual support groups, peer-run programs and services in traditional mental health agencies provided by peer support specialists.

Because peer support specialists are also consumers of mental health services, they provide for their clients a picture of how things can improve with enough support and the proper tools. Peer support specialists can help persons with mental illness navigate through healthy options to identify what they like to do, what they can do, and what goals are logical. The level of empathy that a peer support specialist can provide is truly unique.

Special training is required to work in a peer support specialist role, so that there is a combination of education and training to enhance the person's life experience. West Yavapai Guidance Clinic is one of the many mental health providers in Northern Arizona that have included peer support specialists on their treatment teams, recognizing the valuable role they play. The specific focus of a peer can range from teaching coping skills to emphasizing physical wellness through careful attention to sleep, good nutrition, stress management and social support.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in four adults (approximately 61.5 million Americans) experience mental illness in a given year. One in 17 (about 13.6 million) live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. In this week of mental health awareness, it is important to recognize this prevalence and understand the many modes of treatment that can help people with brain disorders live a life of wellness and recovery.

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