Peer support through lived experience


In this column, we have already looked at how recovering from a mental health crisis is only the first stage on the path to enjoying wellness. That isn’t to belittle the effort needed to take that first step towards getting better. The will and determination required are huge. Anybody who has achieved this should feel very proud of themselves. However, it is frequently a set up for failure to not continue the hard work done to ensure the path to a healthier life doesn’t suddenly veer off in an unwanted direction.
A good comparison would be when somebody breaks their leg. The crisis is the excruciating pain and inability to move which accompany the fracture. We deal with this by going to the hospital where X-rays are taken and the limb is put in plaster. Over a period of weeks and months, the bone knits back together. However, this is only part of the process. The patient will almost certainly have to engage in a programme of physiotherapy to regain full strength and movement. Without it, only a part of the process is completed, the leg won’t be fully functional and will be vulnerable to further injury.
A mental health crisis is no different. At this stage, professional medical attention is needed. In milder circumstances, going to a GP is a good first step. If the situation is more serious, a person may need to go straight to hospital. A doctor will be able to prescribe medication to stabilise a patient’s condition and can also recommend a programme of treatment, therapy or counselling. Other therapeutic options such as CBT or hypnotherapy can be very effective but qualified expert attention in the form of a professional medical practitioner should always be the first port of call.
Medication and therapy are only part of the process though. They can help a person to get to a point where they can start putting building blocks in place to improve and stabilise their road to recovery. It’s very difficult to start on the path to wellness without them but they, on their own, can only do so much. Think of them like the plaster on a broken leg. Without it, the pain is intolerable and movement impossible, but it isn’t the full picture either.
Peer support can be extremely valuable. This is when you work with somebody who is on their own recovery journey, only a little further ahead than you. This helps you to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and gives you opportunity to learn from somebody who has been exactly where you are. Recovery colleges are a great place to find this support. Professional expertise and lived experience are brought together to deliver valuable skills in mental wellness. Both peer support and useful courses are offered and can be very beneficial for anybody seeking to progress on their journey of recovery to mental wellness.

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