Black peer support: its role in mental health recovery-Harvard Health Blog


For thousands of Americans, this has been a disturbing year, characterized by public perceptions of inequality in justice, health care, and most definitely mental health services. None of these inequalities are new.Estimates indicate that only 22% of black Americans-less than a quarter of the number of people in need of mental health care Actual treatment. In addition to financial and insurance barriers in mental health treatment, a long history of discrimination in medicine makes it difficult for certain people of color to establish trusting relationships with medical providers. This is one of the reasons why peer support is becoming more and more popular to help solve unmet needs.

What is peer support for mental health?

Peer support is a relationship based on mutual relationships, that is, people with similar experiences are listening, sharing, and encouraging each other. In the United States, training is supported in the same state, and certification requirements and availability vary from state to state. For example, in Massachusetts, the Mental Health Peer Support Team is assisted by a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS).Trained and certified by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and passed Nice center, CPS facilitates courses and support groups in the following areas: Restoring the learning community The entire state. They also work in DMH-operated hospitals, day care programs, emergency services and inpatient services.

The National Mental Illness Alliance (NAMI) has been widely used peer to peer with Connection Recovery Support Group Program.Local chapter Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) provides peer and parent support groups for families and people suffering from these diseases.The National Empowerment Center has a catalog Companion Retreat Site Provide short-term, overnight crisis support in multiple states. New and expanded roles for peer-to-peer support include forensic peer experts and peer bridges, which assist people with mental illness in transitioning from national hospitals or incarcerations to the community.

research shows Peer support in traditional mental health settings improve Participation and happiness And reduce Psychiatric hospitalization. However, the existing peer support does not address aspects of common identity such as race, ethnicity, or the experience of discrimination in the treatment environment. Friends and family support groups created around race and culture can do the same.

Design peer support to address the impact of race and ethnicity on mental health

In 2005, I created Black Voice: Pathway 4 Recovery (BV) at the Transformation Center in Roxbury, Massachusetts, to help African diasporas seeking the safety of their diaspora talk about the feeling of being black in the United States. It is very valuable to recover with people who face the same reality every day. Although people are worried about hearing news reports or going out of their homes at any time, we will work together to stay safe and healthy because we may face racial discrimination at any time-against us or people who look like us.

How can affinity groups support recovery and recovery? Members of Black Voices said it is important to have a group where they can discuss the challenges and frustrations of dealing with family affairs or racism, while coping with the pressure of a mental health diagnosis, such as depression or schizophrenia, trauma or addiction. Since living in the framework of the white race for more than four centuries, all of us need a lot of healing. When it seemed that another unarmed black man was murdered every other week, all of us were frustrated: frustrated, angry, and afraid of public appearance. People who have seen a new psychiatrist during this time are afraid of mentioning their true feelings because they are afraid of being considered “too severe.” In a person who “knows you”, your culture and your needs, having a place for you to truly understand is priceless.

Strive to gain trust and express opinions in research

In the past six years, Black Voices members have worked with Researchers at the Health Equity Research Laboratory Researchers at Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Initially, the members expressed doubts about the researchers. People have many questions, doubts, and suppressed complaints, and they want to have some talk time!

A wonderful common learning experience has gradually formed between BV members and researchers, but mutual trust and respect must be established first. We must understand the research culture. Researchers must learn our “people-oriented” language and ignore the clinical terminology that causes many people with mental health problems to feel objective diagnosis-like labels, not humans. The more the relationship develops, the more we all are forced to share ideas about future work and outreach activities. BV members can see concrete evidence of the steps taken. We can feel it wholeheartedly and hear directly from the research team what this work means to them, and how our experience can make a meaningful contribution to mental health care research. As time goes by, people feel more hopeful, more capable and more excited about cooperation.

Today, BV members are welcome to participate in the research, but only after they have the opportunity to meet with the research team and ask their 1,001 questions and are sure that they will not be regarded as “poor charity cases that need the help of great white rescuers.” Just started to participate in research. We pursue respect, transparency and sincerity. We hope that there is evidence that the research team is doing its own work by constantly solving its own privileges and assumptions, while humbly admitting that their worldview is limited and biased. There is always more to understand.

Move forward to establish a healing bond

In the days before the pandemic, a simple community discussion on the mental health of black communities attracted more than 100 people. Despite the pouring rain, it was just a standing room: a room full of young people, old people, caregivers and providers. There are couples and singles, there are babies, people are struggling with mental health, while others are not. Many people expressed their questions or concerns.

Since then, we have moved the forum to the Internet, or to a place that can accommodate everyone who wants to join us. Over and over again, we find that people want to learn from each other, grow and heal. They want to make mutual concessions without judgment or hierarchy to avoid further trauma. They seek a process that not only considers their opinions, voices and experiences, but also concentrates, values ​​and respects them. Let us find a way to achieve this goal.

The Harvard Health Blog invites guest authors from time to time, who can elaborate on different aspects of health, well-being, and the world we live in.Together with Valeria Chambers, EdM, CAS, CPS, we would like to thank you Dr. Ana M. Progovac, Health Equity Research LabServing at the Cambridge Health Alliance, she and Ms. Chambers studied the research and historical background of the position.


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