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Peer Support Specialists Model Self-Care and Self-Advocacy

Published May 5, 2022
  • HHSA
  • Employee Spotlight

Josie laughingMay is Mental Health Awareness Month. Peer Support Specialists share lived experiences to help others. Josie Englin offers us insight into the dedicated work she does as a Peer Support Specialist in Adult Services.

How would you describe your work?
Peer work is beautiful. There is something unique that occurs when a Peer Support Specialist discloses their mental health challenges to a client, peer or trusted co-worker. Depending on the intent and environment, disclosure can act as an ice breaker, connecter or educator. I believe that sharing our lived experience with mental health challenges helps people feel less alone. It also normalizes the complex and diverse struggles that most of us navigate on a daily basis. People regularly express appreciation when we disclose, as it demonstrates hope for their mental health recovery, as well. Sharing our lived experience with the expressed intent to model self-care and self-advocacy is, in my book, a worthy cause for disclosure. Peer Support Specialists are trained on how to appropriately disclose as one of the priorities of the position. We are well-educated in what we do, and how to do it, based on the values and ethics of the of Peer Support.

Our leaders embody the Peer Support value of holding peers in “unconditional high regard,” as they empower us to be in charge of our disclosure narratives. They understand and respect that we don’t have to disclose to anyone, including co-workers/staff at Adult Services, if we don’t feel comfortable doing so. Most importantly, they listen. Our leaders have made this position what it is and have aided in crafting a culture where people feel heard and accepted. We could not do all that we do, from outreach to group facilitation to one-on-ones and advocacy, without the understanding, respect and guidance of our leadership.

What motivates you and inspires you to “keep at it?”

Working on this side of mental health is a true joy. My job is so meaningful! I get to see people grow and change in ways that surprise them. Epiphanies and “aha” moments are everyday occurrence for my peers and me. Being that peer work is reciprocal, the connections I make have a profound impact on my continued wellness. Becoming more well and being involved in my community every day is its own motivator.

What wellness tools do you use in your own life?

The most profound wellness tool that I use in my life is, unequivocally, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP). WRAP is our own individualized plan for how we are going to get well and stay well. To quote my good friend Jullie Calkins, Program Manager and Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator for Sunrise Mountain Wellness Center:

“In addition to mental health recovery, WRAP is excellent for substance use recovery, chronic pain, physical health issues, fibromyalgia and anxiety. WRAP can even be tailored for anyone to use when they want to maintain their wellness. I know a Peer Support Specialist who created a WRAP so they could have a healthy pregnancy and another who used WRAP for their year of wedding planning. Basically, everyone needs good mental health and WRAP is a self-directed approach to utilizing wellness tools, personal responsibility and planning to prevent crisis, relapse and unwanted behaviors. There are WRAP books and trainings that focus on substance use, veterans, healthy aging, families and youth.”

I would add that WRAP is a living document that grows with us as we grow. I’m so glad that it plays such a large role in my continued wellness.

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