Deirdre draws on first-hand experience in Peer Support

Lanark, ON, Monday, January 25, 2016

The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is making a peer support program possible at Lanark County Mental Health with a $20,000 grant to train a 15-member team of peer support workers. Clients at LCMH will transition from receiving clinical care to working with peers who understand the journey to mental health recovery because they have experienced it themselves. Peer support puts the focus on recovery and wellness, rather than illness and disability.

Deirdre Palmer is an experienced peer supporter who has recovered from Manic Depressive illness and hasn’t been ill or hospitalized in 14 years. She will be assisting and supporting other peer support workers at LCMH as they get training and move forward. She recovered after a long journey involving a misdiagnosis, numerous hospitalizations, changing medications, and a lot of support and hard work.

As a peer supporter, Deirdre understands that hope and empathy are essential. Hope helps people move forward in their recovery. For Deirdre, hope nurtures her because the longer she stays well, the more hopeful she remains. Her empathy with peers comes from her own struggle to get well. Even if she hasn’t been through what an individual is experiencing, she can relate to that person’s pain and suffering.

Deirdre describes the relationship between a peer supporter and a peer as one of absolute trust, support and confidentiality. While peer supporters need training, Deirdre believes that first-hand experience in having coped and recovered from a mental illness is an important tool.

The insight Deirdre brings to a peer support group comes from her own experience. She also has a great deal of experience facilitating groups of people with mental illnesses, which gives her greater insight as a peer supporter. Deirdre feels that this, in turn, can help peers achieve a quicker recovery.

Having recovered from her own illness, Deirdre is a much stronger person to help others. She feels it’s important to be emotionally strong to deal with individuals as they work on recovering. She has met many people who feel that continual group sessions help them recover through mutual support. Deirdre doesn’t judge whether peer supporters need to have recovered from their own illnesses, but she does see it as beneficial.

Providing peer support has helped Deirdre grow and contributed to her well being.