The Power of Peers
Some of us are experiencing serious challenges to our own mental health for the first time in our lives due to the isolation, loneliness, and/or perhaps financial hardships that have resulted from the COVID-19 restrictions. We may be struggling with depression, loneliness, mood swings, hopelessness, and/or increased anxiety. Or we may know someone who is struggling with these emotions.
Many times, we want to talk to someone about our distress but the people closest to us may unintentionally respond in ways that increase our anxiety or depression or they might grow weary of talking to us about the same feelings and concerns that we can’t seem to shake.
Some of us may be thinking about seeing a therapist or asking our doctor for medication to help us feel better. Some of us may turn to a healthy outlet to feel better – like exercising, mindfulness, or another body-mind practice to help us cope with the unpleasant feelings. These are all valid and beneficial ways to help ourselves.
Sometimes we may turn to some less healthy ways to cope – including shopping, gambling, addictions to behaviors, or harmful substances. We know these coping mechanisms are not good for us but they do help us get by, so we continue indulging.
Did you know that talking to a peer – someone who has been through a similar challenge and/or who has experienced similar emotional distress – is an option that often helps a person feel understood, validated, and empowered to find the best path forward?
Peers can be paid or unpaid, trained or untrained. You may find peers in support groups of people going through similar challenges. You may find a peer in a neighbor or friend or relative who has overcome something that you are currently going through. That person can understand your pain and relate to you in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner.
Unlike clinical help, peers do not assess or diagnose you. They do not treat you. Instead, they listen to you. They help you figure out what you want to do to make your life better and improve your emotional and mental states. This may include seeking professional counseling or medication, however, they do not tell you what you should do. They are a sounding board. They can help you find the resources and information that you are looking for. They can help you examine your options. They are trained in helping people make informed choices. They are also trained in keeping confidentiality. The only exception to this rule is if you reveal imminent harm to yourself or another – they are required, as all adults in Utah over the age of 18 are – to report this to the proper authorities.
At CONNECT Summit County we have trained peer volunteers who have a wide range of lived experience in mental health challenges – as individuals and family members. Our Peer CONNECTors exhibit natural empathy and compassion. They have been trained in nonjudgmental communication, ethics, boundaries, self-care, and mental health resource navigation skills. Our Peer CONNECTors make great confidants who can truly understand where you are coming from and what you are going through.
If you would like to be connected to a peer for emotional support and/or if you would simply like some help navigating the available resources for your situation, please contact our Peer Navigation Specialist at 435.776.HELP (4357) or [email protected].
Spanish speakers may contact our Promotor Comunitario at 435.655.1230 or [email protected] for peer navigation and support in Spanish.