Living with a mental illness can make you feel like you’re all alone. Stigma can keep you isolated from your friends, family and community. Peer support is an effective recovery tool for individuals experiencing mental health challenges.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Vernon and District has been operating its Peer Support program for 22 years, offering social contact and support for community members with mental illness.
“Our team of trained volunteers who have experienced mental illness in their lives provide one-on-one support, drop-in opportunities, hospital visitation for those in the inpatient psychiatric unit, and weekly social activities for individuals in our community,” said Julia Payson, executive director for CMHA.
This month, CMHA Vernon is offering Peer Support Training for individuals who have experienced the trials of mental illness in their lives and are in a place of wanting to help others in their journey.
“We are reaching out to the community for volunteers to help others in their recovery,” Payson said. “We are in particular need of male peer support volunteers and people who can help with our hospital visitation program.”
CMHA Peer Support volunteers are trained in recovery guidance to provide support, hope and compassion to individuals experiencing mental health concerns.
“Many people tend to isolate when they are becoming unwell, which is not good for their mental health,” said Patricia Harding, Peer Support coordinator. “Peer support volunteers can help those who are not doing so well managing their mental health by keeping them socially connected.”
To volunteer at Peer Support, a person must have a healthy attitude towards getting help to manage their mental illness.
“Having experienced mental health challenges of my own, I know it can be hard to reach out for help. But there is a group of caring people who have been through the struggles you are having,” said Colin, who has been volunteering with CMHA for the past 10 years. “At Peer Support, we accept you for who you are, without judgment.”
Those who would like to become a Peer Support volunteer can take part in free training from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18, Mondays and Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m. at the CMHA Peer Support office located 3100 – 28th Avenue.
To register, pick up an application form at the Peer Support office, or contact 250-542-6155.