Recovering from mental illness, preferably called brain illness by many, can be helped by peer support groups.
“Peer support is such a valuable tool to help folks with brain illness when they are working on their own recovery,” said Dolly Hall of the local schizophrenia society.
“There is nothing like getting support from someone who has been there.”
To assist people, Northwest Peer Supporters has started here. It began with a Peer Support Steering Committee being established in the Northwest in 2012, said Hall.
The committee has been meeting regularly, using video conference equipment, and as a result several peer support programs have developed in the region.
In Terrace, the peer support group has been meeting for a couple of months and they are a very informal and open group.
The group of peer supporters who meet on a weekly basis to chat and provide informal support for each other, she said.
They meet for coffee and conversation and are open to folks with any brain illness.
“The benefits for someone with a brain illness in attending these weekly get-togethers include: getting out in the community – folks with brain illness tend to isolate and withdraw from others – they get to talk about common problems and perhaps get advice or gain a different perspective from someone who has been where they are in the recovery process,” said Hall.
“They might also eventually become someone who can support another individual with brain illness who can benefit from their experience and that can be a very empowering thing.”
Peer support in the Northwest is really just getting started, she added. Masset has a depression group that meets regularly.
In Kitimat, a support group for bipolar disorder is in the development stage.
Smithers has a support group that just started a couple of weeks ago.
A representative from each of those communities, plus Hazelton and Prince Rupert, sits on the Peer Support Steering committee and this committee, that Hall also sits on, meets on a monthly basis to work on regional peer support projects.
The steering committee welcomes new members, with any level of commitment, said Hall. Sometimes committee members just provide their perspective as someone living with a brain illness and sometimes they may help out with a project.
Anyone interested in receiving or providing peer support in the Northwest would be more than welcome to join in.
For more details on the peer support group, see Community Calendar under PSAs on page 21 of the March 5 issue of the Terrace Standard.