Participating in peer-led support groups as a path toward depression recovery is empowering! Simple actions, encouragement, and regular participation can help you while you are also helping others. "Within these circumstances the shared experience with someone who has not only gone through a similar experience but who has managed to re-establish their identity and life, provides a ray of hope, solidarity, and optimism."* How do you receive/offer a ray of hope, optimism?
- Introduce yourself: In a group, though it may be uncomfortable at first, introduce yourself. Just say "Hi my name is…" Having others know you as a person will: 1. help you realize you aren’t alone. 2. let others know that THEY aren’t alone.
- Listen: Be open to hear others' stories. You may be surprised you've had a similar experience. You may be able to share how you have worked through what they are experiencing. You may learn something new, a beneficial tool or skill to apply to your life.
- Share: When you feel comfortable, share your story. Your trials and triumphs! Your fears and joys! Just as you learned from your peers' stories, they will learn from you. Also verbalizing your own story will continue to give you insight on the depression you have been living with. Be open to allow others to participate in mutual aid, offer new perspectives, and be problem solvers together.
- Be consistent: Some days it may be harder to participate then others, but your consistency will be empowering for you and your peers. Give yourself the opportunity to celebrate with others on the good days and encourage each other on the bad days! Being consistent reminds you and others that you aren't alone. Of course when we are suffering with depression it can be very challenging to do anything at all and even more difficult to do things consistently. What's important is not judge yourself too harshly if you have a setback and just keep doing your best.
- Be gracious: No one is perfect, we all have difficulties that can keep us from being sensitive to others. When meeting with peers, remember to be gracious to each person, just as you would like them to be so to you. The reality is everyone's story is different. As you are listening to others, it may make you feel uncomfortable. But their pain is real. Their trials are hard. Their fears do affect them. Their story is personal and it isn’t being personally directed at you, it is about them. By listening and caring, we can create an environment in which people feel safe and empowered to begin to look at themselves differently.
Everyone's journey to recovery is different, but participating with other peers can help in a lasting recovery. These 5 simple actions will EMPOWER you and your peers.
Still unsure about peer-led support groups? Read some personal reflections from those are currently participating!
"I came to group feeling very low tonight, and the group lifted my spirits and gave me some much needed hope. I am thankful to have this place to come every week and get support from people who understand."
"I look forward to the meetings now, and that helps with the depression - by giving me something to look forward to that is good for me."
"I felt safe and was able to talk - which surprised me. I was very afraid to share before the meeting began."
"I have been working on my issues for 30 years. Only recently have I felt in control of me, but I find it useful to participate with a group; to hear others issues. The experience re-enforces my ability to take care of myself."
*Peer support workers: A critical analysis of an innovation in mental health