If you are unsure where to go for help, try these resources:
- Call your family doctor/PCP
- Other Mental Health specialists: psychiatrists, psychologist, social workers, counselors
- Community organizations
- Free Peer Support Groups
- Employee assistance programs
If you know someone who may be depressed, it affects you too. The most important thing you can do is help your friend or relative get a diagnosis and treatment. You will feel more confident in helping someone obtain treatment if you become familiar with mental health education yourself. You may need to make an appointment and go with the person to see the doctor. Encourage the person you care about to stay in treatment or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after 6 to 8 weeks.
To help your friend or relative when they don’t want help:
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement
- Talk to him or her, and listen carefully
- Take Suicidal Thoughts or Threats Seriously. Do not leave the person alone. Thoughts about death or suicide are not uncommon in depression
If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide:
- Call your doctor
- Go to the nearest emergency department
- Call 911
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline +1 (800) 273-TALK(8255)
Encourage the person that today’s treatment works best the sooner treatment is started.
Speaking from Experience
A peer specialist is a person with lived recovery experience who has been trained and certified to help his or her peers gain hope and achieve specific life and recovery goals. Actively engaged in his or her own recovery from mental or substance use disorders, the peer specialist shares real-world knowledge and experience to teach others to build a better life. The peer specialist may be a volunteer or maybe a paid employee hired to provide peer support services to others. They go by different names in different settings—peer support specialists, recovery support leaders, recovery coaches, but they share a common commitment to assisting their peers from a strength-based, solution-focused perspective.
What Peer Specialists Do
- Acknowledge that everyone’s recovery is unique
- Serve as role models by sharing their personal recovery stories, showing that recovery is possible
- Teach goal-setting, problem-solving, and symptom management skills
- Empower others by helping them identify their strengths, supports, resources, and skills
- Use recovery-oriented tools to help their peers address challenges
- Assist others to build their own self-directed wellness plans
- Support peers in their decision making by cultivating others’ abilities to make informed, independent choices
- Set up and sustain peer self-help and educational groups
- Offer a sounding board and a shoulder to lean on
- Advocate by working to eliminate the stigma of behavioral health disorders
Characteristics & Qualifications
It takes a special person to be a peer specialist. They need to be able to plan, schedule and create backup plans. Peer specialists must be organized, good with time management, strong in their recovery, and a great listener. It’s a unique skill set. They must be able to work with a high level of autonomy plus be able to follow rules and regulations.
Peer specialists must be able to accept their mental health condition and deal with the stigma that society imposes on individuals with disabilities. A particular quality of peer supporters is the ability to advocate for themselves and those they work with to achieve a level of respect and acceptance of themselves as a person who has a mental health condition.
Because of their life experience, peer specialists have expertise that professional training cannot replicate.