Celebrate and Raise Awareness on Global Peer Support Celebration Day

The core of DBSA is the word “support.” One core way we express that word of support is via the work of peer specialists. DBSA is grateful and excited to honor the work of peer specialists on Global Peer Support Celebration Day. At DBSA, we recognize three core categories of peer support. Peer support specialists are a part of the second and third categories.

The first category is any form of human-to-human peer support such as facilitating or attending a DBSA support group meeting. Acquiring skills and receiving a certificate from a peer specialist training course can move a person into the second category. The third category is awarded to person who chooses to become a state credentialed peer support specialist. All three of these categories are essential and desperately needed. DBSA supports a person being a part of one, two, or all three of these areas.

The world needs more human-to-human peer support, whether without training, with training, or with a state credential. State credentialed and trained peer specialists have and disclose lived experience with one, two, or there of these areas: trauma, substance use disorder, or mental health issues. Human-to-human peer support and peer specialists use lived experience to inspire hope and a motivation to change for those seeking wellness.

DBSA is one of the world’s premier organizations to provide peer specialist training. This training meets the requirements for many state credentials. To check your state’s requirements, please connect with your state’s mental health leadership. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22% job growth for certified peer specialists.

Visit DBSA’s Peer Support Specialist FAQ page to learn more about our training program. Learn more about the peer apprentice program here.

Your Voice Can Make a Difference

Please support this work by forwarding this message to colleagues, family, and friends who are passionate about this cause to assist us in this grassroots effort to make our voice heard.

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Join Our Movement

Register to Vote: Make Your Voice Heard on Mental Health

People living with a mood disorder can find it challenging to engage with daily life. However, we should all participate in our civic duties to ensure that our elected leaders address mental health issues on the local and national levels. In November, we have opportunities to vote for candidates at all levels of government that can directly impact the ability to access mental health services. Elections can be overwhelming. Last week at the DBSA Summit, we shared a rubric for evaluating candidates on their mental health positions and other trusted resources to help you make an informed choice.

One excellent resource we highlighted is #Vote4MentalHealth, a program sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These days, mental health issues touch many concerns beyond access to services e.g., our education system, the impact on correctional programs, housing, employment, and U. S. Veterans. Candidates running for office generally want to hear constituents’ concerns and will engage them in a discussion. Check their website for their position statements and how to communicate with them by email. Let them know the concerns about the issues that are of most interest to you. Mental health concerns are a top issue for elected leaders at all levels of government currently, and they need to hear our concerns and stories.

Be sure to register to vote where you live and take advantage of this individual right. Go here to find voter registration information and voting locations. Many places provide voting by mail, making the process even easier.

Whether it is directed to a member of Congress or a local city council member, we can advocate that they support the need for effective mental health services. When reaching out to candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate, ask them to support DBSA’s policy agenda, which includes support for three items:

  • Virtual peer support services included in HR 7666 and being considered in Senate legislation
  • Expansion of peer support services in the Medicare program as promoted in HR 2767 and S 2144
  • Senate approval of HR 43575 and S 2386, which will increase the number of peer support specialists in veteran health facilities

On the local level, work with elected officials to improve crisis response systems and increase opportunities for peer support services. Please check out our Advocacy page for more assistance and resources.

Self Advocacy

Why Your Voice Matters: Voting as a Form of Self-Advocacy

Tuesday, November 8, 2022, is the U.S. midterm elections. It is a day and an opportunity to participate in civic engagement that impacts future public issues and policy. For people living with mental health conditions, voting is an exercise in self-advocacy to have their voice heard, which can improve mental health and wellness.

In “How could voting benefit mental health?” Maria Cohut, PhD, cites research that shows political participation can help individuals with mental health conditions with:

  • Alleviating distress. A longitudinal survey of female participants 14 to 24 years old from 1968 to 1999 showed participants who were “prone to psychological distress” benefitted the most from engaging in political activities. The report concluded, “…political activity stands to be a resource that might offset some of the negative mental health consequences associated with disadvantaged social status.”
  • Happiness. A published 2009 finding of two surveys and one study of college students and activists compared activist and non-activist behaviors. The study found those who engaged in political activity “reported ‘significantly higher levels of subjective vitality’ than their peers who had engaged in a nonactivist behavior.”
  • A shield from discriminative stressors. A 2018 study followed a cohort of Black and Latinx college students from three predominantly white universities. The participants, who shared experiences of systemic racism and discrimination, reported fewer depressive symptoms and displayed more resiliency linked to political activism.

While voting can be a source of empowerment, it can also be confusing and intimidating. Election rules are different for each state and can change between elections. Resources like the League of Women Voters (LWV), a non-partisan, grassroots organization, provide online tools and information that can take away the guesswork to empower all voters.

LWV virtual tools such as vote411 offer updated local, state, and federal election information for all 50 states and the District of Columbia in English and Spanish. From voter registration, polling place locations, candidate information, and more, vote411 helps voters prepare their individual plans for elections.

To find more self-advocacy tips, visit DBSA’s website for free resources, wellness tools, stories of inspiration, and online support groups.

2022 DBSA Peer Awards

The first DBSA Peer Awards are the highest honor DBSA gives to members of the: Peer Support Specialist, Veteran Peer Specialist, Peer Specialist Student, and Peer Advocacy communities.

This award recognizes peers and advocates whose work advances the field of peer support by fostering hope and serving as valuable role models for those walking the road to wellness. One award was given in each of the following categories at the 2022 DBSA Summit:

  • DBSA Peer Specialist of the Year
  • DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist of the Year
  • DBSA Peer Specialist Student of the Year
  • DBSA Advocate of the Year

At the 2022 DBSA Summit, DBSA recognized four individuals whose support goes above and beyond. These individuals have served their community in extraordinary ways and have all helped others in recovery to thrive and live in wellness.

Susan Noonan, MD, DBSA Peer Specialist of the Year

Susan Noonan, MD, exemplifies how someone who lives with a mood condition can thrive through commitment, compassion, knowledge, and desire to share her lived experience with others. She has shared this knowledge as the author of two books for peers and caregivers. Her extensive volunteer and consulting expertise include working with the Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Room of The Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital.

Recognizing the COVID pandemic’s toll on healthcare workers’ mental health, Susan reached out to DBSA in 2020 with recommendations on creating peer supporter training for healthcare providers. Through our collaboration, DBSA will offer its pilot Peer Supporter Skill Building and Professional Development Course to the staff at McLean Hospital next month. Without Susan’s persistence, diligence, and can-do attitude, this project would not be a reality.

Vail Smith, USMC, DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist of the Year

Vail creates safe spaces for other Veterans, listens, and connects to them. He is a pillar within Chicagoland’s Veteran community. Vail provides hope and stability to many of our nation’s heroes still searching to find their way. He has overcome homelessness and uses his background to make a difference in his work. He testified before Congress as an example of someone who benefitted from the power of Peer Support and encouraged them to ensure other Veterans have that same opportunity. Vail is an instructor for the DBSA Veteran Peer Specialist Course and mentors peers in the Peer Specialist Apprentice Program. His strong values and compassionate way of relating to others impact future Veteran peer specialists around the country.

Bert Patania, M.Ed., CADC, DBSA Peer Specialist Student of the Year

Bert’s client-directed work with high-risk youth and families in Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs demonstrates his commitment to creating thriving lives. He also diligently educates parents on dealing with the challenges of substance use and mental disorders among children. DBSA is grateful for his work serving Veterans at the Hines Veteran Health Center in Maywood, Illinois, and for participating in our first Peer Support Specialist course. His perspective has helped our instructors to remain closely connected to the student experience and influenced the curriculum as it has evolved and improved. His insights will impact future students and course instructors for years to come.

Kimberly Allen, LCDC, DBSA’s Peer Advocate of the Year

As a global mental health advocate, Kimberly has worked tirelessly to bring the peer perspective to the forefront of public policy. As chair of the DBSA Texas Grassroots Organization, she worked to ensure mental health reform in Texas. Sharing her perspective with mental health researchers has led to her authorship of several papers published in well-respected, peer-reviewed journals on topics promoting peer support and wellness for people living with mood disorders.

Kimberly has mentored peers while serving as a Council Member for the Healthy Brains Global Initiative. Adolescents worldwide will benefit from a better understanding of the needs and research priorities to address depression and anxiety in young people based on her work.

Please join us in congratulating our winners.

Briefly Noted

  • The Health Services and Resources Administration, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agency has issued New Tip Sheet: 6 Ways to Power Up Your Health with Telehealth. This new tip sheet features six ways telehealth can help patients take charge of their health. It outlines how telehealth can improve access and care coordination for patients and their families.
  • Through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), HHS announced 10 winners of its first-ever behavioral health Recovery Innovation Challenge. The challenge identifies innovations developed by peer-run or community-based organizations that advance recovery.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued new recommendations on mental health screenings for children and adolescents, citing the benefits of early detection and treatment. Recommendations include screening children beginning at age 8 for anxiety, regularly screening children not showing symptoms of anxiety, and screening adolescents aged 12 to 18 for major depressive disorder.