Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's National Recovery Month!

September 8, 2016 

Each September, SAMHSA, the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration sponsors “National Recovery Month” to increase awareness of mental health and substance use issues. Key themes include: 1) mental health is essential to overall health; 2) prevention works; 3) treatments are effective; and 4) recovery is possible.
The Recovery Month theme for 2016 is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!” The initiative encourages persons with mental health or substance use issues and their supporters to become active in promoting positive change through advocacy events by discussing prevention, treatment, and recovery.
Current statistics
The Recovery Month web page provides a thorough review of important statistics about mental illness and substance use in the US. These data (from 2014) include:
  • Nearly one in five persons (about 43.6 million people) had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (not including developmental or substance use disorders).
  • 21.5 million people (age 12 or older) had a substance dependence or misuse disorder.
  • 7.7 million adults had both a substance use disorder and a mental illness in the past year.
  • By 2020, mental health and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.
  • Two-thirds of Americans believe treatment and support can help people lead more fulfilling lives.
  • Research has shown that most people who start and continue with treatment do stop using drugs, have less criminal activity, and show improved emotional, occupational, and social functioning.
Guiding principles and dimensions of recovery
The Recovery Month toolkit contains a great overview of the concept of recovery as it relates to mental illness and substance use. Recovery is characterized by several important guiding principles, including:
  • Recovery emerges from hope, which is fostered by friends, families, providers, colleagues, and others who have experienced recovery themselves
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways, which may include professional clinical treatment, use of medications, support from families and in schools, faith-based approaches, peer support, and other approaches
  • Recovery is holistic, meaning recovery encompasses a person’s whole life including mind, body, spirit, and community
  • Recovery is supported by relationships with peers and allies, and on social networks
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma, including physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, disaster, or profound loss
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibilities
  • Recovery is fostered by respect
Additionally, recovery includes four major dimensions:
1) Health: Both physical and mental health are important, and learning to manage one’s condition(s) or symptom(s) through informed, healthy choices.
2) Home: Having a safe, stable place to live.
3) Purpose: Participation in meaningful activities, including work, school, volunteering, hobbies, interests, or other fulfilling pursuits.
4) Community: Building relationships and social networks which can provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
Target audiences
New to this year’s Recovery Month toolkit are detailed sections to help four specific target audiences at risk for difficulties related to mental health and substance misuse:
1) Military, veterans, and military families
This section provides specific information about mental and/or substance use disorders in the military culture, and offers resources in support of veterans’ recovery and military families.   
2) Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community
This section highlights the prevalence of mental and/or substance use disorders in the LGBT community, while addressing the specific needs of LGBT adults and youth in recovery.
3) Victims of trauma
This section provides trauma survivors and loved ones with resources about finding support to help further cope with a traumatic event.
4) Family members of those with mental and/or substance use disorders
This section highlights the importance of an individual focusing on their well-being to better support a loved one in recovery from a mental and/or substance use disorder.
Get involved
There’s a wealth of material on the Recovery Month website to help you plan advocacy events, educate others, and do targeted outreach with specific groups, such as those listed above.
Additionally, you will find information about some of the most common mental disorders and misused substances, plus links to organizations that provide information and resources about prevention, treatment, and recovery support services.
Let’s all take action now to help fulfill the campaign’s theme to “join the voices for recovery.” 

The Incredible Power of Peer Support

August 11, 2016 

If you’re at all familiar with issues surrounding mental health and/or addiction, you’ve probably heard of the idea of peer support. But what is peer support and how do you become a peer supporter? Let’s cover these and a few other important points about this very effective and helpful approach.
What are the origins of peer support?
The idea of people helping others with similar needs goes way back in history. In the modern era, peer support has often referred to people “in recovery” from mental illness or addiction providing support and assistance to others also working towards overcoming these types of challenges.
A well-known example dating back many decades is the “12-step” model established by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other similar support groups. In these groups, individuals assisted others on a peer-to-peer level, meaning they were not professionals and typically had no formal training in providing health care services.
How is peer support viewed today?
While the above example still applies, a more refined definition and focus for peer support has emerged in recent years. This newer definition, according to theInternational Association of Peer Supporters (INAPS) is: “Peer support providers are people with a personal experience of recovery from mental health, substance use, or trauma conditions who receive specialized training and supervision to guide and support others who are experiencing similar mental health, substance use or trauma issues toward increased wellness.”
The INAPS definition goes on to say that “the term peer supporter is an umbrella for many different peer support titles and roles, such as peer advocate, peer counselor, peer coach, peer mentor, peer educator, peer support group leader, peer wellness coach, recovery coach, recovery support specialist, and many more.”
Peer supporters provide services in both one-on-one and small group formats. They can assist individuals with a host of recovery-based topics, such as coping skills, developing personal recovery plans, crisis and relapse prevention, illness management and healthy lifestyle behaviors.
How do you become a peer supporter?
As of 2012, 36 US states had established a formal process to become a certified “peer specialist” (or similar title) by completing a specified training course, which includes a competency test. Some states don’t formally certify peer supporters, but many agencies require peer support providers to complete training that is related to their specific organization.
What are the core values of peer support?
INAPS developed “National Practice Guidelines for Peer Supporters” which outlined the following 12 core ethical values for the practice of peer support:
  1. Peer support is voluntary
  2. Peer supporters are hopeful
  3. Peer supports are open minded
  4. Peer supporters are empathetic
  5. Peer supports are respectful
  6. Peer supporters facilitate change
  7. Peer supporters are honest and direct
  8. Peer support is mutual and reciprocal
  9. Peer support is equally shared power
  10. Peer support is strengths-focused
  11. Peer support is transparent
  12. Peer support is person-driven
Where do peer supporters work?
Peer supporters can work in a variety of mental health and addiction-focused settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, peer-operated centers, community outreach teams, courts, correctional facilities, and veterans’ centers, just to name a few. Some peer supporters are paid while others may work on a volunteer basis. 
What are the benefits of peer support interventions?
From my work over the past several years with peer supporters, which was primarily in a psychiatric hospital setting, I have seen many individuals benefit greatly from working with trained peer specialists. One of my colleagues who has also worked extensively with peer supporters says their interventions are “magical.” He recounts several instances of people with serious mental illnesses growing and flourishing with remarkable progress after only a relatively short period of contact with peer supporters.
One of the very tangible benefits that peer supporters bring is their first-hand, lived experience with mental health issues. Because of this, they can easily relate to individuals who are still struggling with their own personal challenges. They can also share the tips, tools, and strategies which have been useful for them, which may also be worthwhile for the person they are helping.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts peer supporters bring to others is hope and inspiration, for they are a living role model of how it’s possible to grow, learn and have a fulfilling life while still coping with a significant and sometimes lifelong health challenge.
A growing body of research is showing numerous benefits from peer-based interventions. Some of these established benefits include:
  • Improved outreach to persons with serious mental illness
  • Decreased hospital admissions and fewer crisis events
  • Shortened hospital stays
  • Improved social functioning and improvement in symptoms
  • Improved ability to cope with or accept illness
  • Improved family relationships
  • Improved quality of life
  • Increased employment
  • Significant healthcare cost savings
Where can I learn more about peer support?
The INAPS website is a great place to start. While you’re there, be sure to check out some of their many useful resources, such as their practice guidelines and their“Recovery to Practice” materials.
Even better, talk with your local mental health organizations and agencies and get information to connect personally with one or more peer supporters. Not only can this help you with your own personal recovery journey, you may eventually decide to obtain the training to become a credentialed peer supporter yourself and help others.
I hope you can tell what a huge fan of peer supporters I am. Their work has been one of the most significant revolutions in mental health care over the past several years, and it’s definitely worth your time to connect with these fantastic individuals who give so much of their time and talents to help others.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Do You Know What Mental Illness Feels Like?

We often hear the clinical terms used by doctors and other professionals to identify the symptoms of mental illnesses…but if someone hasn’t gone through it, would they know how to recognize it?
So often, clinical terms don’t do justice to what life with a mental illness feels like. We know that two people with the same diagnosis can experience the same symptom and describe it in very different ways. Understanding the signs of a mental illness and identifying how it can feel can be confusing—and sometimes can contribute to ongoing silence or hesitation to get help.

It’s important for people to talk about how it feels to live with a mental illness. We know that mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available. But not everyone knows what to look for when they are going through those early stages, and many simply experience symptoms differently. We all need to speak up early—Before Stage 4—and in real, relatable terms so that people do not feel isolated and alone.

This May is Mental Health Month; Lakes Region Consumer Advisory Board is raising awareness of the importance of speaking up about mental health, and asking individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like by tagging social media posts with ‪#‎mentalillnessfeelslike. Posting with our hashtag is a way to speak up, to share your point of view with people who may be struggling to explain what they are going through—and to help others figure out if they too are showing signs of a mental illness.

Life with a Mental Illness is meant to help remove the shame and stigma of speaking out, so that more people can be comfortable coming out of the shadows and seeking the help they need. Whether you are in Stage 1 and just learning about those early symptoms, or are dealing with what it means to be in Stage 4, sharing how it feels can be part of your recovery.

Lakes Region Consumer Advisory Board wants everyone to know that mental illnesses are real, that recovery is always the goal, and that the best prospects for recovery come when we act Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4).

Addressing mental illnesses B4Stage4 means more than burying feelings and refusing to talk about them, and waiting for symptoms to clear up on their own. B4Stage4 means more than wishing that mental health problems aren’t real, and hoping that they will never get worse. B4Stage4 means more than thinking that someone on the edge of a crisis will always pull himself or herself back without our help, and praying that someone else will intervene before a crisis occurs.

B4Stage4 means, in part, talking about what mental illnesses feel like, and then acting on that information. It means giving voice to feelings and fears, and to hopes and dreams. It means empowering people as agents of their own recovery. And it means changing the trajectories of our own lives for the better, and helping those we love change theirs. So let’s talk about what life with a mental illness feels like, to voice what we are feeling, and so others can know they are not alone.

May is Mental Health Month

Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition.

During the month of May, NAMI and participants across the country are
bringing awareness to mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide
support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year,
the movement grows stronger.

We believe that these issues are important to address all year round, but
highlighting these issues during May provides a time for people to come
together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve
the lives of all Americans whose lives are affected by mental health conditions.

1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime
and every American is affected or impacted through their friends and family
and can do something to help others.
- See more at:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Support Lakes Region Consumer Advisory Board while shopping

Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Lakes Region Consumer Advisory Board whenever you shop on AmazonSmile.
AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.
Support your charitable organization by starting your shopping at

Click on the link below to start your shopping:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

For People with Mental Health Problems

If you have, or believe you may have, mental health problem, it can be helpful to talk about these issues with others. It can be scary to reach out for help, but it is often the first step to helping you heal, grow, and recover.
Having a good support system and engaging with trustworthy people are key elements to successfully talking about your own mental health.

Build Your Support System

Find someone—such as a parent, family member, teacher, faith leader, health care provider or other trusted individual, who:
  • Gives good advice when you want and ask for it; assists you in taking action that will help
  • Likes, respects, and trusts you and who you like, respect, and trust, too
  • Allows you the space to change, grow, make decisions, and even make mistakes
  • Listens to you and shares with you, both the good and bad times
  • Respects your need for confidentiality so you can tell him or her anything
  • Lets you freely express your feelings and emotions without judging, teasing, or criticizing
  • Works with you to figure out what to do the next time a difficult situation comes up
  • Has your best interest in mind

If you have, or believe you may have, a mental health problem, it may be helpful to talk about these issues with others. John Saunders, sports journalist, shares a personal story of hope and recovery from mental health problems.

Find a Peer Group

Find a group of people with mental health problems similar to yours. Peer support relationships can positively affect individual recovery because:
  • People who have common life experiences have a unique ability to help each other based on a shared history and a deep understanding that may go beyond what exists in other relationships
  • People offer their experiences, strengths, and hopes to peers, which allows for natural evolution of personal growth, wellness promotion, and recovery
  • Peers can be very supportive since they have “been there” and serve as living examples that individuals can and do recover from mental health problems
  • Peers also serve as advocates and support others who may experience discrimination and prejudice
You may want to start or join a self-help or peer support group. National organizations across the country have peer support networks and peer advocates. Find an organization that can help you connect with peer groups and other peer support.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

11 Mental Health New Year's Resolutions

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter

Top of Form
New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on weight, general health and finances, but they can also extend to mental health. Experts give their mental health New Year’s resolutions suggestions for you to try this year and every year after.
Chip Coffey, the director of Outpatient Services at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, sent nine positive mental health resolutions for the new year through email:
1. “I will treat myself with respect and speak nicely about myself. Try taping a list of 10 positive characteristics about yourself in various places throughout the house and workplace to remind you of these things.”
2. “I resolve to be mentally healthy. In the United States, there is still a stigma about seeing a therapist. However, it is truly one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. A therapist gives us an unbiased ear and can also help us to understand why we do the things we do ... think of seeing a therapist as a mental health oil change.”
3. “I will be physically active on a daily basis.” Multiple studies show a link between exercise and improved mental health.
4. “I will act and not react. Many times we feel like everyone is pushing our buttons. When this happens, we are caught up in reaction. It is not that people are actually pushing buttons; it is that we became overly sensitive. If you know you’ll be around someone who says negative things, plan for this and have a list in your head of disarming statements.”
5. “I will learn to relax and enjoy. Many times we become so busy we forget how or even when to take care of ourselves. Take a yoga or meditation class. Find some activity like photography or journaling [that] is relaxing and enjoyable to you. Dedicate time to this daily, if possible, or at a minimum, weekly.”
6. “I will not define myself by a label. We often become our labels, e.g., I am depressed, I am fat, I am anxious. Drop your label; when you so it allows you to take control of the messages you have about yourself. For example, you could say, “I have depression, and today I will make sure to exercise to manage it.’”
7. “I will be mindful. Being mindful is about staying in the moment.
I cannot change yesterday; I cannot predict tomorrow, however I do have control over the here and now. So, I will be aware in the moment, and enjoy that moment.”
8. “I will work towards being the person I want to be. There is an old quote about life being a journey to be enjoyed not an obstacle to be overcome. When we see our lives as obstacles we do not enjoy life much. When we see life as a journey and a time to continue to be the person we desire to be, life is much more pleasant and enjoyable.”
9. “I will not be hard on myself if I make resolutions and do not keep them. I may want to try them later in the year. I may realize that it will take more time than I thought to work on issues and I will look at this as a good things and not a bad thing. I do not fail by trying.”
Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist in Calif., suggests that women look at setting healthy boundaries as a New Year’s resolution.
“This can be something that women struggle with much more than men, whether it be with their sexual partners, officemates, or children,” Bacchus said. “Boundaries are important as they protect us from being manipulated, controlled, or abused. This enables women to make choices about what they think, feel, or how they behave.”
Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage,” said in an email that resolutions can center around removing toxic personal habits, like feeling lonely.
“Loneliness may not result from actually being alone, but more from feeling misunderstood or not valued,” Tessina said.
“People often isolate themselves because they feel inadequate in social situations. Value the friends you do have, and make new friends by attending classes or other group events where you can focus on a task or assignment. This will take the pressure off your contact with other people, and give you something in common with them.”
She said to also avoid spending too much time on the computer socializing because that doesn’t help loneliness as much.
“Make sure you schedule some time with a friend at least once a week, and if you don't have friends, then use that weekly time to take a class or join a group (for example, a book club or sports group ) which will give you a chance to make new friends,” Tessina said.