Bring Hope to Others by Becoming a Peer Support Specialist

As a Veteran of the Air Force, Nick has always desired to work with Veterans facing some of life’s most difficult situations, much like he has. Now he does this daily, working as a Veteran Peer Specialist. DBSA’s Pilot Peer Apprentice Program had its first success story on September 26, 2022, when Nick began working as a Peer in a Chicago area VA Hospital.

Nick was one of the first individuals invited to participate in this year-long internship. As a peer support specialist apprentice, he was introduced to DBSA’s Compassionate Language Guide to discuss the experience of living with a mood disorder. A language that fosters acceptance of the past while looking toward a hope-filled future. DBSA’s Peer Specialist Course provided Nick and his fellow apprentices with training to help others as they move through their own recovery. In addition, as an apprentice, he received training on WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and WHAM (Whole Health Action Management). Following the educational programming, Nick transitioned to an internship at a Chicago-based behavioral health community center. There he worked as a peer support specialist, using his newly developed skills.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to address the mounting mental health crisis, peer support is taking center stage as a critical component of mental healthcare.

For those who desire to take another step toward being a beacon of hope and support, you may wish to learn more about becoming a peer support specialist. This unique role can be found in both volunteer and paid positions. Taking a peer support specialist course does not guarantee employment. Still, it can be a powerful way to learn tools to support yourself and those for whom you care.

Peer support specialists are individuals on a journey of healing and recovery for themselves and their communities. They are community members who use their experiences of trauma and mental wellness as a tool and resource to inspire hope and encouragement for others on their healing journey.

 Learn more about the DBSA’s Peer Specialist Course here.

Join Our Movement

Webinar: Research Priorities of Older Adults Living with Depression and Chronic Physical Health Conditions

Join the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and the National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC) for a webinar that Investigates Care Models to Support Older Adults with Depression and Health Comorbidities on December 13, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. ET. 

This virtual real-time event summarizes the learnings from a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) convening held in August 2022. During the convening, twenty-eight participants recommended prioritizing research topics for older adults living with depression and chronic physical health conditions. Webinar attendees will learn about the following:

Survey Results from Older Adults Living with Depression and Chronic Physical Health Conditions,” Presented by Andrew Smith, LSW, MPH (DBSA)

Gap Analysis Between Current Research Projects and Older Adults Research Priorities

Presented by Lokesh Shahani, MD, MPH, FACP Assistant Professor, Chief Medical Officer (The University of Health Science Center at Houston)

Recommendations for Research Topics

Presented by Diana Burnett, MS (NNDC)

Mark your calendar and copy and paste this link in your calendar to attend the webinar on December 13.

Self Advocacy

Self-Advocacy Tips for Veterans

U.S. Veterans of all generations, conflicts, discharges, and backgrounds experience unique situations. Yet, impact on­ mental health is universal across the Veteran community. For Veterans facing mental health challenges, self-advocacy includes identifying one’s needs, interests, life skills, and available resources needed to make daily and long-term decisions. According to Vets First, self-advocacy “is all about figuring out what you want, making a plan to get it, and executing it without being afraid to ask for help (whenever needed) along the way.”

Robert Dabney, Jr., MDiv., MA, Manager of DBSA’s Peer Apprentice Program, is a Veteran peer specialist and mental health advocate. He served nine years as a medic in the U.S. Army and three years as a healthcare chaplain. Robert states, “One of the best ways I discovered to begin the healing process is to find a community of which I can be a part. Being in community with people with similar experiences helped to reduce the shame and embarrassment I carried and replaced them with feelings of acceptance and understanding. We are made for relationship (yes, even warriors) and can only begin to accept others into our lives when we accept and respect ourselves.”

In Tips and Strategies for Self-Advocacy, Vets First emphasizes that self-knowledge of your strengths, needs, and interests is the foundation and “first step towards advocating” for yourself.

Vets First also points out that self-advocacy is a skillset to develop over time with practice and recommends the following basic tips:

  • Know and understand your rights and responsibilities
  • Learn all you can about your disability, needs, strengths, and limitations
  • Know what accommodations you need as well as why you need them
  • Know how to communicate your needs and preferences effectively and assertively
  • Find out who the key people are and how to contact them if necessary
  • Be willing to ask questions when something is unclear, or you need clarification

Robert adds, “Mustering the courage that took you through Basic Training will be required to begin healing from the invisible wounds we carry.” 

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

Briefly Noted

  • As Congress wraps up for the year, DBSA is optimistic that mental health peer support will advance. This may include development of peer-supported mental health programs, Medicare reimbursement for peer support specialists, and expanding the use of peer support specialists at Department of Veteran Affairs. Stay tuned. DBSA will send Advocacy Alerts as this process moves forward.
  • HHS and SAMHSA released a new report, National Guidelines for Child and Youth Behavioral Health Crisis Care calling for improved crisis response services for children, youth, and families. It provides guidance on how communities can address gaps in care. Children in crisis often face hospitalization or justice system involvement. In many cases, home- and community-based services are best for de-escalating and stabilizing a crisis.
  • DBSA joined 70 patient advocacy organizations to comment on how the new HHS nondiscrimination in healthcare rule can improve access to prescription drugs. We support the meaningful steps to ensure people are not discriminated against in healthcare and further clarity on what is discrimination. The regulation must be strictly enforced. The final rule is expected to be announced in the middle of next year.