Struggling to cope? An online ‘mental health peer’ can lend support

If you’re going through a difficult time, help may only be a few Facebook clicks away

by Nicole Spector /

as cited in The Suicide Prevention Resource Centre Weekly Spark 7th September 2018

NBC News

“When Harmony Hobbs, a 38-year-old freelance writer living in Baton Rouge, embarked on sobriety she was going to AA meetings and in therapy, but some of her best support she found in an unexpected place: the internet.

“When I started trying to get sober, someone I know in recovery invited me to a women’s only Facebook group for others struggling with sobriety,” says Hobbs, who recently achieved 18 months clean. “It has been so valuable as resource for me. As a parent of three, I can’t always drop what I am doing and go to an AA meeting. It’s hard enough just to make it to therapy. With these women, I can be sitting in the kitchen, have a moment where I think about walking to the store to get vodka, and just hop on there and say I’m struggling, and they’re there.”

Hobbs recounts one particularly powerful moment, when, knowing she had to dispose of her son’s Adderall when he no longer needed it, she couldn’t bring herself to do it alone. “No one was available to come over and be with me, so I went into the Facebook group and said, ‘I want you to watch me dump these pills,’ and I did it live. That held me accountable. I really think that might have saved me from myself.”

A mental health peer is not a therapist

Such is the beauty of having a ‘mental health peer,’ which Seneca Williams, a licensed mental health counselor defines as “an accountability partner that has recovered from or is successfully managing their symptoms of mental health to support you through your mental health condition.”

“A mental health peer is not licensed or credentialed provider of mental health treatment,” Williams clarifies, and it’s important to note that such a person can’t replace a mental health professional. Instead, a mental health peer (or group of peers) is an additional resource for coping. Sometimes they can help in ways that therapists can’t.”

“A key benefit to a peer is that [they will] speak honestly about their personal experience,” says Monica Elden, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in integrative psychotherapy, coaching and training. “A therapist will not reveal or share as much personally the way a peer can.”

A mental health peer is different than a regular friend

A mental health peer may wind up becoming a good friend, as has been the case for Hobbs, but you’ll likely never call this person your best friend, and that’s a good thing. Ideally, a mental health peer is more like an objective but empathetic confidante who has gone through the same types of mental health challenges that you’re presently navigating and can talk with you from a place of personal wisdom. A mental health peer does not coddle or indulge you, just as they don’t judge or dismiss you. And they certainly don’t enable you.

“A regular friend can be supportive, listen and empathize, but they may also enable unhealthy patterns that don’t make your mental health better,” says Williams. “[They can] be supportive but cannot give you useful feedback from their experience managing that mental health issue, because they have not had to deal with it and their perspective is different. They can sympathize or empathize, but their inability to completely grasp what you are feeling, can make you feel more isolated, which is very counterproductive to healing.”

What is productive to healing, is feeling understood by another who knows what it’s like to be in your shoes.

“For me personally, there is a tremendous amount of value in bonding with someone over having moved forward from that trauma or illness,” says Delton Russell, member engagement specialist at Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions. “Who better to understand and support me than someone that’s been there? Think of it as if you have lived in a particular region your whole life and then you move to a foreign country and while living there you meet someone that grew up the next town over from you and understands your dialect and shares the same love you have for a local restaurant. It doesn’t mean that your [other] friends are any less to you, but you’ll likely have some kind of bond with the person that comes from the same area as you.”

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World Suicide Prevention Day 2018 YEPPOON QLD – September 11th

Sandra Moran, CEO & Founder, Jaie’s Journey Inc.

Suicide Prevention, Awareness & Postvention Support.
Jaie’s Journey believes in using Education, Empathy & Empowerment, to assist in breaking down the stigma of suicide, depression and mental illness within Communities.
Sandra is holding a public meeting at Yeppoon with the aim of establishing a suicide prevention group.

Sept 11th_Yeppoon_WSPD_Flyer_2

10 Things Suicide Attempt Survivors Want You to Know

Suicide Prevention Resource Centre

Watch our SPARK Talk on engaging suicide attempt survivors.

“By listening to attempt survivors, we can create alternative responses that will help keep people alive.”

Speaker Information

Barb Gay

Barb Gay, MA

Barb Gay is the executive director of the Area Substance Abuse Council, Inc., a nonprofit substance abuse prevention and treatment agency located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is also a member of the Suicide Attempt Survivor Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Transcript of SPARK Talks

Speaker: Barb Gay, Member of the Suicide Attempt Survivors Task Force, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention

My name is Barb Gay. I’m the executive director for the Area Substance Abuse Council located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I also was a member of the Suicide Attempt Survivor Task Force for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

I think adding the voice of suicide attempt survivors into the field of suicide prevention is essential. I believe that lives can be saved. I believe that deaths by suicide can be prevented. I believe people can recover and lead full and productive lives. I believe this because I have survived my own suicide attempts. Because I live my life in recovery. Because I work in the community mental health field. When suicide attempt survivors work with suicide prevention providers, we can improve the systems that are charged with providing care: primary care, crisis and emergency care, behavioural health care.

Suicide attempt survivors want providers to talk directly about suicide. To talk about suicide with compassion. To ask the individual who is experiencing suicidal thoughts what it is they need to be safe.

Oftentimes, there’s silence that surrounds suicide. And the questions that are asked, are asked with a presumed response. A question like, “You aren’t thinking about suicide, are you?” really shuts down the person who might have been thinking about suicide and was ready to share. Instead, asking a question with compassion and saying, “When people sometimes experience and feel the way you’re feeling, they think about ending their lives. Are you thinking about ending your life?”

Talking about suicide with someone who has had an attempt, or someone who is thinking about suicide, won’t cause them to make an attempt. It will make them feel cared about. Make them feel loved. It will treat them with respect and dignity. And will help find a way to make them well.

Often there’s a lot of fear when someone starts talking about ending their life. The common response that I’ve heard is to use the emergency room or call for 911. We make an assumption about what someone needs to be safe. We think they need emergency medical care. What they get are sirens and lights, lots of attention, lots of people in uniforms that have weapons and handcuffs. We don’t ask them what they need to be safe.

When we listen to suicide attempt survivors, and we learn what their stories are and what they would’ve liked to have happen, we can create alternative responses to keep people alive.

In my community, we use mobile crisis counsellors to come onsite. Instead of first responders, we have two crisis counsellors who arrive in an unmarked car, in their normal everyday clothes. No weapons, no handcuffs. They sit and talk with the individual who’s experiencing suicidal thoughts. They hear what’s causing their pain. They listen to their reasons for living; they listen to their reasons for dying; and they collaborate to make a plan of action to keep that person alive.

For help in Australia

CAPS – Talk Suicide Support Service – Free telephone and face to face support      1800 008 255

Salvation Army Care Line     1300 36 36 22

Reach Out     http://au.reachout.com/tough-times

Headspace     Register and chat now at eheadspace, or call 1800 650 890  Headspace

Lifeline    13 11 14

Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 (24 hour phone counselling and referral)

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Mates in Construction: 1300 642 111

QLife        1800 184 527    Phone & Chat  3.00 – 12.00 pm everyday

SANE Australia help

SANE Australia Helpline  –  Talk to a mental health professional (weekdays, 10am-10pm AEST) 1800 18 72 63

Helpline chat – Chat online with a mental health professional (weekdays 10am-10pm AEST)

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 (24 hour phone counselling)

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (Professional call back service referral line operates seven days a week)

Veterans Line 1800 011 046 (after hours professional telephone crisis counselling for veterans and their families

 

Free World Suicide Prevention Day Webinar – Suicide Prevention Australia

11am to 12noon, Tuesday 11 September in honour of World Suicide Prevention Day 2018. Learn about suicide prevention at work and join the conversation online with four expert panelists.

Nieves Murray

Suicide prevention in Australia; the big picture and why we need suicide prevention at work Nieves Murray, CEO Suicide Prevention Australia. Throughout her 30+ year career, Nieves has been passionate about empowering vulnerable people to live good lives, free from stigma.

Mark Leopold

What we know about suicide prevention at work and how the Heads Up program can help Mark Leopold, Head of Workplace Engagement, beyondblue Mark has 25 years of operational and management experience across a diverse array of industries. He joined beyondblue because he understand the benefits that professional men and women can gain by working in mentally healthy workplaces.

Chris Lockwoord

Creating a culture where employees feel safe to talk about suicide at work Chris Lockwood, National CEO, MATES in Construction, Mining & Energy Chris has a passion for delivering better mental health outcomes for workers and reducing the incidence of suicide across construction, mining, energy and allied industries.

Kevin Fegueirdo

The hallmarks of a mentally healthy workplace Kevin Figueiredo, General Manager Group Safety Health & Wellbeing, Woolworths Group Kevin is a safety, health and wellbeing professional with over 20 years’ experience implementing large scale cultural change and business transformation programs in diverse, complex and multinational companies.

Register Now

With thanks to our webinar partner, Redback Conferencing. Suicide Prevention Australia remembers those we have lost to suicide and acknowledges the suffering suicide brings when it touches our lives. We are brought together by experience and are unified by hope.

Suicide Prevention Australia acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to elders both past and present. Member Benefits Research Fund Become a Member The Hub Connect with us Get Help Copyright © 2018 Suicide Prevention Australia, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: membership@suicidepreventionaust.org Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

For help in Australia

CAPS – Talk Suicide Support Service – Free telephone and face to face support      1800 008 255

Salvation Army Care Line     1300 36 36 22

Reach Out     http://au.reachout.com/tough-times

Headspace     Register and chat now at eheadspace, or call 1800 650 890  Headspace

Lifeline    13 11 14

Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 (24 hour phone counselling and referral)

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Mates in Construction: 1300 642 111

QLife        1800 184 527    Phone & Chat  3.00 – 12.00 pm everyday

SANE Australia help

SANE Australia Helpline  –  Talk to a mental health professional (weekdays, 10am-10pm AEST) 1800 18 72 63

Helpline chat – Chat online with a mental health professional (weekdays 10am-10pm AEST)

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 (24 hour phone counselling)

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (Professional call back service referral line operates seven days a week)

Veterans Line 1800 011 046 (after hours professional telephone crisis counselling for veterans and their families

AISRAP’s Community Forum for World Suicide Prevention Day – Register now

Friday 14 September 2018

AISRAP

Guest Speakers include:

Chief Inspector Gary Raymond APM, OAM (Ret’d.) Dip.VET

“Saving Lives – Suicide Crisis Negotiation”

Professor Ella Arensman, Scientific Director, National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), Research Professor, School of Public Health, University College Cork, Ireland

“Multi-level suicide prevention programs: Impacts beyond the sum of individual interventions”

And also

  • Mr Ivan Frkovic, Queensland Mental Health Commissioner.
  • Mr David Morton, Director General for Health Policy Programs and Assurance, Joint Health Command, Australian Defence Force.
  • Professor Sheena Reilly, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Health), Griffith University.
  • Professor David Ellwood, Dean of Medicine & Head of School, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, School of Medicine, Griffith University.
  • Associate Professor Annette Erlangsen, Visiting Fellow, Australian National University, National representative for Denmark and co-chair of the Special Interest Group on Suicide in Older Adults for the International Association of Suicide Prevention.
  • Dr Marianne Wyder, Senior Research Fellow, Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Services.
  • Dr Raelene Ward, Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Southern Queensland.
  • Ms Bronwen Edwards, CEO, Roses in the Ocean.
  • Mr Sam Webb, co-founder of LIVIN.
  • Dr Stuart Leske, Senior Research Assistant, Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.
  • Mrs Jacinta Hawgood, Senior Lecturer, Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention.

Please follow us on twitter and facebook to receive updates, as more Speaker details are confirmed.

Registration and Payment

Arrival from 8:00am, with the event commencing at 9:00am sharp.

Venue:  The Greek Club, 29 Edmonstone Street, South Brisbane.

Payment Details:

$88 (incl GST) for full day attendance (8:00am – 4:15pm, includes morning/afternoon tea and lunch).  Excludes informal social networking from 4.30 pm onwards.

Registration payments via Griffith Pay on or before Monday 3 Sept 2018. To use Griffith Pay, please register as a user.  Please email aisrap@griffith.edu.au should you require assistance.

Thank You for your Support!

176 Messines Ridge Road, Mt Gravatt campus,Griffith University, QLD, Australia, 4122 Phone: 61 7 373 5337

lotus 1

For help in Australia

CAPS – Talk Suicide Support Service – Free telephone and face to face support      1800 008 255

Salvation Army Care Line     1300 36 36 22

Reach Out     http://au.reachout.com/tough-times

Headspace     Register and chat now at eheadspace, or call 1800 650 890  Headspace

Lifeline    13 11 14

Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 (24 hour phone counselling and referral)

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Mates in Construction: 1300 642 111

QLife        1800 184 527    Phone & Chat  3.00 – 12.00 pm everyday

SANE Australia help

SANE Australia Helpline  –  Talk to a mental health professional (weekdays, 10am-10pm AEST) 1800 18 72 63

Helpline chat – Chat online with a mental health professional (weekdays 10am-10pm AEST)

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 (24 hour phone counselling)

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 (Professional call back service referral line operates seven days a week)

Veterans Line 1800 011 046 (after hours professional telephone crisis counselling for veterans and their families