TRIAD’s first national survey of people living with mental illness and their families highlighted the power of peer-run services, but also revealed a shameful dearth of these programs in the current mental health system. Peer-provided services, such as drop-in centers, peer-led education programs, and peer-provided job coaching, are a cost-effective, recovery-oriented, and community based service that should be available to all people with mental illness. Unfortunately, that is not the case as shown in the lack of access to peer-run programs among the nation’s largest organization of people with mental illness and their families.
In the TRIAD survey, less than one third of people with a serious mental illness received peer-run programs in the last year, far less than the amount who received more costly services such as inpatient care or crisis intervention. For those who were able to participate in some type of peer-provided service in the past year, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Almost three-quarters of individuals represented in the survey said that the quality of peer-provided services was excellent, very good, or good—making peer-provided services among the most highly rated of all interventions in the TRIAD survey.
One respondent simply summarized the powerful effect of peer-run services after years of struggling with mental illness:
[I] was made aware of a…clubhouse program, they helped me get part time work. I was also happy to utilize their newsletter…That gave me an outlet to share my poems and artwork. After a few years, I became manager of their consumer-run hotline,…and got a stipend paycheck. In short, I lost about 20 years of my life before the support of (the clubhouse program).
The data in the TRIAD survey on peer-provided services points to a valuable opportunity for the public mental health system as peer-provided services are among the most well liked, but least utilized interventions by individuals with mental illness. Peer-run services also provide valuable leadership development opportunities for people with mental illness via an array of initiatives. NAMI is working to expand its peer-provided services, including the NAMI C.A.R.E. Mutual Support Program and the Peer-to-Peer education program, but this gap in access must also be filled by contributions from the public mental health system. The public mental health system must act now to vigorously expand peer-provided services by supporting the minimal costs required in implementation and promoting these programs as core services for people with mental illness.
Read more about peer-provided services from the perspective of a person living with mental illness who has become a peer specialist. The results will be summarized next week. Your responses will be kept confidential. Thank you for sharing your story with NAMI—and be sure to come back to this site for more information and to take action.