Monday, March 20, 2017

In February, a Peer Recovery Specialist Training was held at the Medical Library of the Belau National Hospital. The training focused on defining peer support and recognizing its benefits for people with lived experiences of mental health problems & illnesses.

Peer support is any organized support provided by and for people with mental health problems & illnesses. It may be social, emotional, or practical support offered in the form of self-help groups, peer counseling, or similar activities. The effort depends on mutual support through shared experience from all people involved who are living with mental health illnesses.  

[restrict] Its key elements are building on shared personal experience & empathy, focusing on an individual’s strengths, and working towards personal well-being as well as recovery. Recovery is defined as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.

Unlike care offered through the psychiatric system, peer support encourages individuals with mental health illnesses to take responsibility for their personal well-being. Peer support encourages a network of mutual support that will assist a person with lived experience of mental health problems & illnesses integrate into the community. It also introduces people to a range of tools that support them in their recovery journey. One of those is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).

WRAP is a process that helps an individual identify wellness tools that will assist with recovery. Wellness tools could include a personal group of supporters made up of friends/family or taking part in activities that promote a feeling of wellness (journaling, exercising, sleeping, etc). WRAP also focuses on identifying triggers, such as upsetting events, and warning signs that identify a worsening condition. The training provided information about how to deal with moments of breaking down and how the wellness tools may assist an individual with improving his/her feelings. Developing a crisis plan and a post-crisis plan allows a person with lived experience of mental health problems keep control in all situations, even in moments of distress.

Trainers for the workshop were Ms. Robyn Priest (Lead) and Ms. Gina Arca. Ms. Priest is a Peerlink National Technical Assistance Center Lead Coordinator. She has been involved with the mental health community for many years. Ms. Arca is a Certified Peer-to-Peer Support Specialist from the island of Guam. Both women have personal experiences with mental health problems & illnesses and were able to create recovery plans through peer support.

The Peer Recovery Specialist Training was offered through Peerlink National Technical Assistance Center, a program funded and supported by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Branch of the United States Department of Health & Human Services. Peerlink National Technical Assistance Center is a program of the Mental Health America in Oregon. It is a non-prof­it organization that supports technical assistance to individuals, peer-run programs, and community partners with the goal of improving the overall services provided to people with lived experience of mental health challenges. The organization provides information, training, and technical assistance that promote peer support recovery programs.

The training in Palau began on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 and concluded on Friday, February 24, 2017. The following two (2) Palauans were presented with certificates for completing the peer support training: Ms. Alice Sbal and Ms. Pillar Uong. Ms. Sbal is the Psycho­social Rehabilitation Coordinator for the Behavioral Health Division of the Palau Ministry of Health (MOH). Ms. Uong is a Palauan with lived experience of mental health illness. [/restrict]