Living with a chronic illness like bipolar disorder requires a team. From the psychiatrist who prescribes medications to the therapist who assists in recovery, to our family and friends, we are grateful for the people who help us deal with a complicated and recurring condition.
Another important piece to my recovery is my peer network.
I like having connections with others who live with bipolar disorder.
It’s easy to learn the science or theory behind mental health conditions, but it is very tough to have lived someone’s experience.
With peer support, being validated and understood is possible.
Support groups are a great way to meet others with bipolar disorder, but peer support has started to evolve.
Here are some of the ways that peer support is becoming more accessible to people with bipolar disorder:
NAMI’s Peer Support
The NAMI Peer-to-Peer program is innovative, providing effective peer support for people with mental health issues.
Many organizations have followed suit.
Peer-to-peer consists of ten two-hour units and is taught by a team of trained peers with diagnosed mental health conditions who live a life of wellness and example.
Other peer-driven programs provided by NAMI include regular peer support groups, peer veteran resources, and online support resources.
Although NAMI’S programs aren’t perfect, they are often the first programs that people here of after seeking resources for mental illness.
It is a great place to start.
Peer Support Specialist Programs
Peer support recovery specialists are people who have progressed in their recovery from a mental disorder. They are willing to self-identify as a peer and assist others in their recovery.
An advantage of having a peer support specialist is their life experience with mental illness.
There are opportunities for professional certification in many states.
More military veteran peer support positions are being opened at the VA.
Certification often requires proof of experience and testing, and annual continuing education units.
Direct peer to peer support services include:
Peer specialists are not therapists. Anything that involves therapeutic intervention is referred to a therapist
Social Media Support
We are fortunate to live in an age where support is easily accessible via Internet.
Mental health chat rooms and message boards, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook are just some of the ways that people with bipolar disorder can connect and share their experiences.
How important is peer validation of bipolar or another mental health condition in your life? Do you get enough peer support? Have you tried any of the support options listed here?
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Last reviewed: 20 Aug 2013