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Life at the intersection of health and mental health: When is peer support not peer support?

April 10, 2014
by Sue Bergeson
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It’s been interesting looking at peer support from two different systems as a consumer of mental health series and as a consumer of health services as I deal with the two difference forms of cancer discovered in my body in July 2013.

 I know a lot of about peer support within behavioral health. Thanks to peer leader Larry Fricks I had the opportunity to be trained as a certified peer specialist and then also tapped to train others. I have been able to bring paid peer support into the managed care system where I work with much support from many coworkers. When I was at DBSA, I helped nurture the chapter and support groups network – again with many talented people such as Lisa Goodale and Ingrid Deetz in the lead. 

I’ve read Sherry Mead’s really insightful work on intentional peer support and have been a part of many conversations around this work. I’ve struggled with the issues around paid and volunteer peer positions, career paths, supervision of peers, and the value of online and phone based support groups. I’ve tried to think and talk through the difference between peer specialists, support groups and group therapy as this world of peer support continues to evolve. There is a lot of consider. But that’s not really what I want to blog about today.

These blogs are about my experiences as I intersect with both health and mental health systems. During my journey, I have found some wonderful things that have made me think and some not so great things that have also challenged me as I considered peer support.

First the great things: I have been surrounded by opportunities to receive peer support for my cancer journey. I have received newsletters and e-mails that post the times and locations of many support groups. I have been given three and a half pounds of written materials, access to smart phone apps, even videos of courage and support. I wish it were not so hard for consumers of mental health services to get this kind of access for behavioral healthcare peer support.

 I was given a referral from my hospital to receive a phone call from a breast cancer survivor – a wonderful form of peer support. I wish we routinely offered this kind of service to consumers of behavioral health services after a diagnosis, during treatment, after hospitalization.

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Sue Bergeson

Serves as the Vice President of Consumer and Family Affairs for a large managed care company

@@BergesonSue

Sue Bergeson is a behavioral health consumer and a family member of behavioral health consumers...