News / Health

    Peer Counseling Aids Mental Illness Recovery

    Non-pharmaceutical treatment has been used for 50 years

    Despite pharmaceutical advances in treating mental illness, peer counseling remains an important part of therapy.
    Despite pharmaceutical advances in treating mental illness, peer counseling remains an important part of therapy.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    In a courtyard outside the local library in Kent County, Maryland, five men and women gather around a table to talk.

    “I like it here," John says. "You meet a lot of people. And not only that, the same people have the same problem, some worse than others. I come here to be around people, to meet people.”

    “Since I found this group, I don’t feel so isolated," says Victoria. "I don’t feel so insulated.”

    John and Victoria - who are only using first names to protect their privacy - are members of a support group run by Chesapeake Voyagers.

    The mental health, wellness and recovery center works to help people who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks and other disorders that can alter thought, mood or behavior.

    One in five adults in America suffers from some form of mental illness, according to a recent survey. Although help is available, most never seek it - perhaps because of a lack of understanding about the illness or the dread of stigma.

    But the repercussions of untreated mental illness - job loss, family disruption, isolation, homelessness and hopelessness - can be devastating. Over the past four decades, researchers have developed powerful new medications to ease symptoms, but peer counseling - a non-pharmaceutical treatment that has been used effectively for half a century - is still an important part of therapy.

    “The first day that I came to meet with Chesapeake Voyagers was a huge task for me to open the door," says Rebecca. "I wanted to run away so quick and cry, but yet, I knew I had to do that if I was going to get better.”

    The 47 year old has battled depression since childhood, though she says it wasn't diagnosed until recently. For Rebecca, isolation is a huge problem.

    “I had two attempts at suicide. I think that when you’re in this valley of darkness where you can’t pull yourself together enough to even do the basic needs - showering, your personal hygiene - it’s a real struggle to try and feel like you’re worthwhile, that you have a place in society," she says. "You don’t feel like you’re socially fit to go into crowds, go to stores. You don’t feel like you can make meals. Depression takes away your character. So you have nothing to fall back on.”

    Support groups - like those run by Chesapeake Voyagers - offer something to fall back on:  a community of people facing similar issues. And, as more people bear their soul to the world on reality television programs, it could lead more people like Rebecca, John and Victoria to feel comfortable talking to others about what they’re going through.

    Peer support counselors - many of whom have experienced and successfully dealt with mental health problems themselves - lead the groups.

    Counselor Audrey D’Allaird is bipolar and says she couldn't find a job until she discovered Chesapeake Voyagers.

    "Essentially, with bipolar you have extreme highs and extreme lows, and I could get a job so quickly, but I could lose it just as fast. I didn’t understand that. I didn’t understand it was mental illness."

    D’Allaird leads support groups dealing with depression, and the effects of emotional and physical abuse. Another of her groups focuses on drug and alcohol addiction - conditions that research shows are closely tied to mental disorders.

    In addition to support groups, Chesapeake Voyagers hosts social events like evenings out for dinner, bowling or going to the movies. The center also offers access to computers for finding jobs and housing, as well as information on other mental health resources.

    Similar services are available in communities around the country and, increasingly, in virtual communities through websites and Internet bulletin boards.

    You May Like

    Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora