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peer (pir) noun: one that is of equal standing with another

January 24, 2023

I’ve just signed myself up for an 80 hour course to become a mental health peer counselor. I’m super stoked. I mean, there’s all this crap happening out in the world that wiggles its way into our minds and moods – these damn gun shootings, climate catastrophes, etc. And then there are those of us who seem to have been born with a little (or a lot of) mood wonkiness right off the bat. Apparently one in five of us are experiencing something akin to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD, PTSD, Bi-polar…. Bottom line, mental health is physical health. We all have our unique mental/physical make up and challenges. We all, at some point, need tune-ups, big or small.

Mindsite News (LOVE them!) and The Seattle Times says that peer counselors have “unbeatable knowledge of what people are going through. Having mastered the day-to-day of mental health challenges or overcoming substance use, they’re able to connect with people in a way many traditional clinicians don’t. In addition, they’re not required to have the same formal education and licensure as professionals either, enabling them to get trained and ready for work faster – filling gaps in a field desperate for more support.”

Yes!! Peer counselors have BEEN THERE. We are educated by experience, rather than by a Ph.D. I love that our time in the trenches counts for something and can be utilized to help others who find themselves buried. Because man-oh-man is this country at a deficit as far as mental health support goes. So people like me who have wandered through the dark abyss and found tools to get out can, once trained, help fill in those big holes in our feeble mental health support system. We don’t have to spend 6 years in school to do that. Heck, we’ve already spend decades of our lives navigating the willies.

When I created My Happier Mind Cue Cards, I enlisted a team of mental health professionals to read over each card, tweak anything, add anything, discount anything. I wanted to be sure that I was on the right track. I knew that these 71 tips & tricks for better mental wellness worked for ME, but were they universal? Was I being responsible in sharing these ideas with other people? Fortunately, the psychiatrist, the executive director of NAMI-SF, the social worker, and the teen counselor all said, “Yup, you nailed it.”

My Happier Mind Cue Cards and (free) MyHappierMind.com website are the beginnings of my stepping forward, of being a mental health advocate, of coming out of my own closet of shame and fear about my moods that have sometimes walloped my life. It is my offering. And continues to be.

Now I’ll add another notch in my lipstick case and hope that peer counseling can help fill the hole in our mental health support.

Sending love,

Anh

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