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  • Zachary Sullivan

Peers Supporting Peers

As someone who believes that the solution to mental illness often lies outside of medication, peer support is a vital ingredient to the healing process and maintaining a healthy, mostly happy lifestyle when dealing with mental illnesses.

Over the past number of years dealing with my anxiety and the stress of schooling, I firmly believe my parents have done everything in their power to help me without putting me on a medication that will simply numb the feeling of anxiety from my life. However, despite their best efforts, there is only so much that can be done in terms of support by someone who is not in a similar situation as you or does not know, first-hand, what you work with in terms of stress, expectations, and hardships. When those outside your sphere of experience seem to have helped as much as possible, one of the best routes you can take is to take shelter in the support of your peers. Often your closest friends can be your best support system, your most trusted confidants, and a key step on your path to a recovery of sorts.

At a certain point, it becomes important to find who within your friends can provide you with support, will not be judgmental about your condition, and ultimately will help you walk through your condition so that it is not a battle you fight alone. In your struggles, a friend may be the deciding factor that keeps you from tipping over the edge into a panic attack, anxiety attack, or something of the sort. Communication with your peers can be a vital part to your recovery.

Proof of this type of recovery method has been shown all over. Namely, Peer Support Solutions (PSS) conducted a study in 2008 in New York and Tennessee that measured hospitalization for depression before and after peer support groups were used. The results measured a 71% and 73% reduction rate in rehospitalization in the two states, respectively.

Learning to trust your friends and peers to help walk you through a tough stretch in your mental illness could be vital to your ability to climb out of the hole.

However, I’m not going to place this entire article on those of you with mental illnesses. If you are someone who is close friends with someone suffering from a mental illness, try to be that support system for them. You are the peers who could make a difference in their life for the better. There are courses all over the internet that teach the best methods to act as peer support for your friends, and they are almost all worth looking into to learn how to properly aid someone suffering mentally.

As you delve into this realm of reaching out to help those you know that deal with these conditions, remember to be patient with them. Try your best to treat them little to no different with other people, maybe simply with a little more compassion and understanding. Recovery is a slow process; it is a long and sometimes painful road, so it is vital to remember that sometimes people fall, sometimes they take steps back, and sometimes it’s hard to understand what they are going through. However hard it gets, though, if you have made the commitment to help them, try your best to stay true to that commitment and walk with your friend through the hell they may be experiencing inside their mind.


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