Friends and Fellow Persons with Mental Illness: How Can I Help?

blue bench
Blue bench in my front garden

IRL mental services can be fragmented and people face a number of barriers to accessing services:

  • difficulty finding good information about what is available
  • shame and/or fear of stigma
  • transportation and/or hours of service
  • difficulty feeling comfortable, having rapport with the counselor/therapist

IRL service agencies in Canada are trying to improve this by including professional and peer support workers. For example, the Canadian Mental Health Association supports the value of peer support:

“Living with a mental illness can make you feel isolated. The stigma associated with mental illness doesn’t help, either. The typical route to recovery can involve counselling and medication. But, there’s a powerful recovery tool that is often left untapped. This tool is peer support.” (CMHA article, Oct 18, 2018)

Recently, a blog I subscribe to, PsiHub, posted a link to an article about Friendship Benches. I shared the following comment on PsiHub:

The Friendship Bench article was deeply touching and got me thinking of alternative supports for MH. It’s becoming more accepted in health, so why not MH? It’s a puzzle I have been working on. I have 4 university degrees (2 bachelors, masters in social work, and Ph.D. in education) and a lifetime of experience as a person with mental health issues. Yet, where I live, I’m not qualified to be a ‘counselor’ and while I accept that and support professional accountability, there should be a role for people like me. The Grandmothers. Thank you, Vikram.
Peace & progress.

I am serious about my question in this post, but it needs clarification: I am referring specifically to online support. CMHA and other places hire people like me with lived experience and I’m sure I could do that. However, my health and mental health are not, at this time, conducive to a regular job (I’ve written before about my experience on long-term disability).

I’m working toward acceptance of my abilities and capabilities now. Just because I can’t return to my job, doesn’t mean I can’t contribute. I’ve been reading and researching and feeling a bit overwhelmed at all the leads online. Most of which ‘lead’ nowhere. This morning I’ve come to a moment of clarity: community development 101. Ask the community what it needs. I haven’t worked in community development for a decade, but thankfully I haven’t lost all I learned (I also wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the topic of online information seeking).

Please take a moment and use the comment feature to tell me about your experiences and struggles getting help online:

  • what type of mental illness do you have?
  • what has been helpful to you? (some examples would be Twitter, Reddit, blogs, apps, chat rooms, discussion forums, etc.)
  • what kind of help do you think would be valuable online?

I invite people to have a conversation about this and see what emerges. Thanks for reading this post.

Peace & progress,
Colleen

5 thoughts on “Friends and Fellow Persons with Mental Illness: How Can I Help?

  1. TARA POWER

    I’ll bite 😅

    As far as I have figured out under the topic of mental illnesses I have chronic depression and an anxiety disorder that is more hidden than most.

    I haven’t really ‘sought out’ help online, but I belong to a few online groups that share their creative thoughts and societal outcries, so FanFic.Net, AO3 and tumblr. There I find others who are having the same problems and we talk each other through it. Or people who are having a harder time and I come away with the feeling ‘I can manage, it’s not THAT bad’. Which is helpful, doesn’t “fix” me, or make my days easy, just a touch less impossible.

    As for things that could help online…in the last year I tried out, what seemed at first a great idea, Habitica, but became just ‘another stick to beat myself with.’ I think something like it (it being an app in which you logged all your tasks so you don’t forget them and it rewarded you with D&D type treasures/pets when you completed them on time) manned by actual humans who can encourage and help you work through why that one task JUST SITS and makes you feel 1000x worse!

    While I love the world of doing things in app (because I’m an antisocial introvert surrounded by people) this is a case where I need a human intelligence seeing that one task come up, over and over, and ask me about it.

    As for the sites I’m on, sadly I’ve pulled away from the communities I was in (part of broken brain getting worse!), but back when I was in them I offered support to many and got support in return. We all bonded over common likes/obsessions and woes. I’m not sure how else to describe it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. drcolleen

      Thanks Sis. It seems like there are lots of options online for you to give and receive support, but when things are bad, as you said, you pull away. Which is how it works IRL too.

      Like

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