Our core idea is simple: people who have lived experience with mental illness can offer a specific, unique, culturally and socially relevant, and accessible type of mental health care-- known as peer support.
According to Mental Health America, "Peer supporters are people who use their experience of recovery from mental health disorders to support others in recovery. Combined with skills often learned in formal training, their experience and institutional knowledge put them in a unique position to offer support."
For Project LETS, we use a slightly different model. Peer supporters are not only people who use their experiences of recovery and healing to help others in recovery-- peer support means using experiences of mental illness to support others who are struggling, or in need of support. For many folks with mental illness, these experiences are lifelong-- and it is not so simple as being sick or being recovered.
Project LETS believes there is no better support than from those who can empathize with you. Peer Mental Health Advocates (PMHA) understand pain, have experience with mental illness, and can offer insight, education and skills to folks unable or unwilling to access professionalized help. We also work with folks who are in need of additional support, even though they may have a therapist or psychiatrist. This form of integrated health care/peer support is remarkably successful, as connectedness and relationships among isolated, disconnected folks are among the best forms of help one can provide.
- Affirming the individuality of people in terms of their lives and goals
- Adopting and working with the individual's perspective in living life, not just preventing illness
- Providing choices and information
- Collaborative rather than prescriptive
- Peerness: non-hierarchical and reciprocal relationships
- Sense-making: reducing the insecurity that people so often feel around health and health care
- Teaching practical skills when necessary, not just leaving the individual to struggle with complex and important things on their own
- Empowering people and building their self-efficacy
We work with individuals every day who can't seek treatment due to insurance or lack thereof, financial limitations, family issues, stigma, geographic location, inaccessibility, cultural differences, and many other barriers. We also work with individuals who can access treatment, but who may have found it unsuccessful/prefer not to seek professional treatment for a variety of reasons. Low-income individuals are not the only people with mental illness who do not seek professional help. Some people's disorders make them too paranoid to talk to a professional. Some people are scared of the possibility of abuse from a professional. Some people have or believe they have disorders that are horribly stigmatized. We believe being able to talk to other mentally ill people is essential in healing.
We focus on five major areas: assistance in daily management, social/emotional support, linkage to clinical and community resources, crisis support, and ongoing support. Project LETS can provide you with an individual, one-on-one PMHA whose lived with a similar experience or identity to your own; and can help connect you to a variety of resources.
Our PMHAs are trained in: peer support, trauma-informed care, suicide prevention, cultural dynamics, power and privilege, crisis management, and coping skills.
Here are some examples of services provided by PMHAs:
- Creating a personalized safety/relapse prevention plan
- Sending reminders regarding medication and appointments
- Cultivating their peers’ ability to make informed, independent choices
- Helping their peers identify and build on their strengths
- Accessing help/resources + learn how to interact with the healthcare system.
- Answering questions about mental illness to develop confidence and reduce stress
- Providing support in times of struggle and crisis
- Providing information relating to coping mechanisms and how to maintain recovery.
- Assisting their peers in gaining information and support from the community to make their goals a reality