Letter to the Editor: Submitted by Mark Jacobson

To the Editor:

During the last few years there has been an amazing shift in the world of mental health. People have begun to understand that the mental health issues that someone may struggle with do not define them, and that they need support and love from their family and peers.

The stigma that once hung over depression, anxiety and other mental disorders is lifting, making it easier for people to come to terms with their illnesses and seek the help they need to heal. An extremely beneficial way to combat mental illness is to attend peer support groups for mental health. Here is a list from clinical psychologist David Susman, PhD of six reasons a support group could best serve your needs.

1. Realize You Are Not Alone. It is so important to come to terms with the understanding that you are not alone. Mental illness often has people trapped within their own minds and if you can see that other people are struggling just like you and can relate to what you’re feeling it can help you as you learn to live with your condition.

2. Express Your Feelings. A great way to start getting out of your own head is to talk about what you are feeling. The more you venture to say things out loud, the more tangible the problem will become for you. This opens the door for you to begin recognizing and understanding your own feelings.

3. Learn Helpful Information. A huge benefit of talking with other people that have similar struggles is that they may know some helpful information that you haven’t heard before. This could be anything from a therapist having a unique way of explaining techniques to help with anxiety to a new medication that is working wonders for a peer.

4. Gain Hope. Being able to speak with other people who have not only gone through the darkness that you are experiencing, but have made it out the other side stronger can do a lot to boost your morale. Connection can be healing, and having understanding peers to lean on when times are hard can be life changing.

5. Help Others. Joining a peer support group won’t just help you, but it can also help the other people in your group. Your story is unique and needs to be shared so others can learn from what you have managed to overcome. Never underestimate the power of your personal journey.

6. Affordability. In some very real ways joining a peer support group can save you tons on medical bills. Studies have shown that people in support groups are less likely to be re-hospitalized and spend time in in-patient care facilities.

Most adults with mental health issues aren’t used to talking about their conditions in social situations. But a peer support group, possibly unlike anywhere else for the participants, is a judgment- and stigma-free zone, so they’re more open to sharing. Participants also know that they’re equipped to offer advice to each other and help troubleshoot problems because of their shared lived experiences.

Who better to offer inspirational, candid messages than someone who’s been there? Opinions such as  “you are not your disorder,” “you are a person, not a problem,” and “your condition does not define you” are best received when coming from people who have walked in those shoes and seen the world through those eyes.

If you think that joining a peer support group could benefit you or someone you care about, contact your local mental health provider or check online for groups that are available in your area.

If you would like additional support, I may be reached at gottahavehope38@gmail.com or by letter to 559 W Broadway St, Winona, MN 55987.

Respectfully submitted,
Mark Jacobson
Peer Support Specialist
Winona, MN