Peer Support training states that there are ten guiding principles of recovery. One of these is the “relational” principle. It tells us that an individual’s chances of recovery are greatly increased if he or she has a strong foundation of support at home and in the community. This can be a difficult principle to achieve for many, as people often find themselves isolated when they leave institutions. Some patients have burned bridges they feel can’t be repaired. Family members may have abandoned them. In some cases, family wants to be involved, but with privacy laws, they are unable to help the patient regulate mediation or keep in touch with the patient’s doctors to find out about any progress or regression. Some patients entered the hospital not only because of mental illness, but also because of stress put on them from toxic people, sometimes family.
According to the Kentucky Peer Support training, through healthy relationships, a person with a mental illness or substance abuse disorder can find roles which can give him or her purpose through social interaction. Being a volunteer, a student, an employee, or a peer support can make one feel a greater sense of self and give one a better outlook on life. Becoming a part of an advocacy group can help others while empowering the individual as well.
When a mentally ill person or a person diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder cannot find support in a faith-based institution or with family, there are other organizations on which to lean. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has chapters across the country and may have support groups or day-time programs. There are also volunteer possibilities through them. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (dbsalliance.org) also gives opportunities for people living with these illnesses to become facilitators of support groups and to volunteer and advocate on behalf of others with mental illnesses. The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (sardaa.org) is yet another group.
There are many possibilities for a mentally ill person to integrate into the community, even if it is through social media at first. Any connection to groups of people with similar experiences helps. Any connections that allow for socialization and the promotion of friendships will help an individual in his or her recovery journey. The “relational” aspect of the recovery process is an important one.
Rebecca Coursey, KPS
Peer Support Specialist