About Gayle Bluebird, aka “Bluebird”
About Gayle Bluebird, aka “Bluebird”
Many in our community may be feeling extra stress with all of the talk about the Coronavirus outbreak, officially now called COVID-19. As peer supporters, we are in a position to support others around their own fears as well as the general fear in our communities.
Encouraging people to discuss their fears is a great practice. Our discussions can provide accurate information, and it can help others find accurate information from appropriate sources. In this way, people can decide what they need to do to in order to minimize their risk of becoming infected, and it also can have their minds put at ease if they realize that they have already taken necessary precautions. We can respond to fear with compassion and also offer constructive support.
Fear can be a lifesaver that protects us from real danger and spurs us toward positive action, but it also has the power to deeply disturb and limit us. Worst of all, fear can erode our trust in ourselves, in the goodness of others, and the joy in living.
Constructive responses to fear:
James Baraz sums it up this way in his book, Awakening Joy, “Focusing only on the terrible things can lead us to pull back from life and fall into despair. Staying in touch with the well of joy within us enables us to be part of the solution rather than the problem.”
What helpful strategies do you have that help you to calm your fears?
Interim Director of Operations
National Association of Peer Supporters, Inc (iNAPS)
March right in. Yes, March right in. If you choose, April left out. Of course, I realize that is quite a silly statement. They say in baseball, there is a position called left out, but that is not a fact but is more than having a feeling. It is way we can discount feelings.
For me, I am trying to separate the facts from what their insides are telling them. Maybe brain versus heart. Someone must have a better idea. Does anyone have one, I am willing to listen?
During last month, there is a day where feelings get muddled with facts. On February 14, it was Valentine’s Day. For many of us, it is a day set aside for lovers who spend special time together. When my significant other, Maureen was alive, she said February 14, was a day like another and we are supposed to love each other every day.
Consequently, for the years Maureen and I were together, (12 not enough), no gifts, no candy and no cards were exchanged on February 14. Also, no flowers were given to each other, it was just an ordinary day, just to be together. Think about this, no chocolate nor sweets. So is this feelings or facts? Do you agree, or disagree? Decide what might be best for you. Remember I am not here to decide anyone’s ultimate happiness.
Now we March from February to another exciting month. Awaiting the new season, William Shakespeare wrote , “Beware the Ides of March”. Another famous statement was, March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb”.
Are these truthful ramblings of writers to entice what goes on around us all? Both lines are feelings and not based in facts. Also, coming in March is the beginning of Spring. Although, .so far this winter has been devoid of snow, winter will be ending. That is a fact.
GREAT and FANTASTIC are my feelings and what I wish for is no snow ever, On the other side if one goes skiing, they can take snow with them for a white time. Soon, there will be, GREEN GRASS AND NEW LEAVES, REDBIRDS AND CARDINALS SINGING and hopefully, BLUE SKIES AND BLUE WATER EVERYWHERE to adorn us with their beauty. Does this sound wonderful? Share your thoughts. Furthermore in Spring, it brings the start of the baseball and must see watching for this writer. LETS GO YANKEES! LETS GO YANKEES!
[Ed. Note: Thank you Howard! It's great to have you writing and marching with us again!]
By Dan Frey, Director, City Voices, www.cityvoicesonline.org
Anyone can get involved within their community in order to strengthen the abilities of peers in recovery from mental health, or substance use concerns. Building this type of bridge is easier with the support of a mentor.
I had a mentor named Ken Steele who was well known and effective during his time. He was the founder of City Voices, the only newspaper in New York State that provides a platform for peers to share their voice with mental health experiences. In his time, Ken took some heat for the funding he received from a pharmaceutical company and his close relationship to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA) formerly the National Mental Health Association. However, he always spent the funds on his projects and on people instead of himself.
Ken also founded the Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project, which registered 28,000 people to vote in NYS. His project would have gone national had he not passed away suddenly at the age of 52. To my knowledge no one has taken up the cause of organizing people with mental health diagnoses into a voting bloc since Ken.
Twenty years since Ken died, City Voices is still going and it is gradually working its way back to Ken Steele-levels of distribution. In every issue we include content of value for the peer workforce. We are independent of pharmaceutical companies and raise money for operations from subscriptions, advertising, and donations.
To view the current issue of City Voices newspaper, click here.
In addition to the newspaper, we facilitate, and are working to grow peer-worker support groups, increase our web and social media visibility, and to start a mentoring project.
To view the flyer for Peer Workers United, click here.
All of these projects are volunteer and require a willingness to negotiate, compromise, have empathy and respect for each individual and the collective lived experiences, and, most significantly, teamwork. We do this work because we strive for a world where we feel like we belong and have the right to achieve our bliss.
I really hope our mentoring project takes wing, as mentoring helped me to stay active and engaged. I believe it can have the same impact on someone else. This year I am celebrating 10 years free of institutionalization and I hope to help others stay clear of that too.
The web address may change in time, but the email should remain.
We are seeking volunteers with lived experience in mental health or substance use who can do any of the following: write, edit, mentor, mentee, organize, co-facilitate, sell, share, social media, web design, computer work, speak, or learn. Most work can be done virtually (anywhere), while some work depends on being near New York City.
I look forward to hearing from you.
City Voices newspaper is fiscally sponsored by Baltic Street AEH, the largest peer-run employer of people with lived experiences in NYS.
To learn more about Dan Frey, click here.
To review an earlier posting by Guest Blogger: Kathleen Surline
Founder, Wisdom Within (https://wisdomwithinweb.wordpress.com)
Of all the profundities that have come to light in the course of my illness, recovery, and even my subsequent choice to become a NY Certified Peer Specialist, one the most perplexing has been disconnection; or perhaps, more accurately, reconnection.
I suppose it goes without saying that most of us experience some manner of disconnection before, during and/or after our mental health diagnoses. While we are struggling with our symptoms and no one else gets us. While we are are fearing what might really be wrong. While we are sleeping less and less. While we are swimming in that initial sea of uncertainty. We may not feel able to hold a conversation with a friend or loved one; our words don’t work. We may find we are
isolating (such a common occurrence during depressive episodes, etc.); we have a hard time reading with understanding; we feel unable to explain what we are going through, so we may say nothing at all. We don’t go out. We don’t answer the phone. We stop getting online.
Slowly, slowly, through the course of recovery work, we make certain new connections that help our footing. Maybe its a medication regimen that finally seems to help, after months of trial and error and side effect surprises. Maybe it’s a therapist or doctor that we finally feel is the right fit for us. Perhaps we took up writing again, or art, or music, or (name your therapeutic endeavour of choice here). All this helps. But many of us are still very separate from the rest of the world. Some disabled by distance or finance, some by inability to leave their homes to attend support groups, workshops, conferences.
Then, lo and behold, and by whatever manner the opportunity came, we find there is now a connection, a path if you will, in peer support, that can allow us to make lemonade from lemons.
The Offices for Mental Health and the Academy for Peer Services avail us of the possibility of becoming Certified Peer Specialists in mental health via the online
coursework they’ve so outstandingly developed! To connect with a like-minded group, even if only in spirit. To share what we’ve lived, survived, learned along the way, from our oft times lengthy dance in the darkness. To then take that forward, with shared knowledge and standardized education, in our history, in this new work, in an effort to help the next humans who find themselves at the dance; to encourage wellness, self-advocacy, and hope. Despite perhaps some sputters and
spurts, we reconnect online to APS coursework and discussion forums, and focus on certification. The sense of accomplishment and affirmation once that certification happens, well, it’s like a rebirth of sorts. Back into the world of the functional, the valued, the accomplished!
Then, we may find, despite all best intention and enthusiasm, that peer support work itself can, at times, leave one feeling disconnected in its own right. Or at the very least, somewhat isolated.
If we are fortunate enough to gain a position in the peer support workforce, then the fellow consumer-survivors we serve may be our most frequent interactions. We are there for them (not the other way around). Its not like we have a support group for Peer Specialists. And the work is not easy; if it were, everyone would do it.
On the other hand, if we are not immediately finding positions in the peer support workforce, then we may again feel isolation and disconnect. Peer support work is evidence-based, yet old stigmas and biased perceptions still serve as roadblocks to our early success in some regions. This frustration could be enough to cause one to give in to the agony of defeat!
But, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it, “never, never, never give up.”
Now, we have APS’ new Virtual Community! What an opportunity! Might it be possible to create new connections with this as a starting point? Could this be one small step, to at least a foothold on the ladder to reconnection? Might we develop online support groups for our peer support workforce? For our new and continuing APS students? The mind boggles in wonder about ways can we look to reconnect our disconnects through this forum, and where that might … connect us to the future.
By Guest Blogger: Kathleen Surline. NY Certified Peer Specialist
Founder, Wisdom Within (https://wisdomwithinweb.wordpress.com)
In a recent article in City Limits, writer Noah Phillips describes how peers are organizing for system change. Peer workers are identifying critical areas where they are undervalued or not performing the work they are most suited, as people with lived experience, to do to engage people and help them to find their way out of the system.
Read the article and let us know what you think. Is this unique to New York City or is it something that happens everywhere peer support services are offered?
Joining the Military to Beat Depression: A vet finds her way back from suicidal depression, by Denise Ranaghan
Originally Posted Feb 14, 2018 on Psychology Today
On the psychiatric ward I didn’t get out of bed for weeks except to pee. The bathroom had two entrances, one from my room and one from the room of the two male veterans on the other side. It stunk of stale urine. I didn’t eat the meals served. I didn’t attend the community meetings. I didn’t respond when the psychiatrist came in and threatened to give me electric shock treatments if I didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t give a hoot about the female veteran who shared the room with me and was in bed almost as much as I was. I did notice that at least she ate. I didn’t talk to Alberta, the nurse’s aide who stood by my bedside every morning and told me I would have to get up some time. Alberta was right about that.
The afternoon came when I did raise my frail and weakened body from the hospital bed and trudge down the hall. The floors under my hospital issued foam slippers seemed very hard and cold, the lights in the hallway seemed very bright and the walls along the corridors seemed very white. Sounds of voices in the distance penetrated my eardrums as if they were coming from a loudspeaker above my head. I reached the TV room and with my slow and delayed steps shuffled over the threshold. Some guys with cigarettes hanging off their lips were playing pool and the first few times the pool stick hit the cue ball my body jolted. Nurses’ aides were huddled in a corner chattering about their personal lives: “You can’t let that boy get away with that sista he ain’t never gonna learn his lesson he need a daddy to whip him into shape and if he ain’t got no daddy he ain’t gonna know how to be no daddy.…” An unshaven veteran sat hunched over on a plastic folding chair, covering his ears with the palms of his hands and tapping his fingertips on the sides of his head. Every once in a while, he would stand up straight, shake his fists in the air over his head, and proudly exclaim, “Oh yes I did. You bet your ass I did!” then sit back down, cover his ears and start tapping again.
That visit to the psychiatric ward was the result my third suicide attempt in the one year…
Click here to view the full article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/not-the-whole-person/201802/joining-the-military-beat-depression
About the author: Denise Ranaghan is the Director of Peer Services at NYAPRS. She is a veteran who served in the Army from 1986-1989. In 1992, while an inpatient at the NYS Psychiatric Institute, Denise returned to school through the Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Program. She earned an Ed.M. in Psychological Counseling at Teachers College, Columbia University. Later, she pursued a license in Mental Health Counseling.
Denise served as a Peer Specialist on the MHA ACT team from 2008-2012. In 2012 she took the position of Director of Wellness Services at the MHA where she served until returning to the ACT team as Team Leader in 2016. She has held multiple positions in the mental health system including Residential Counselor, Residential Manager, Employment Specialist, and Coordinator for an Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Treatment program. In 2018, Denise took the position as Director of Peer Services at NYAPRS. Denise says, “As oppressive and frustrating as organizations and institutions can be, I have benefitted from them and want to work to make them better. I have met some phenomenal, loving people who have helped me access resources along the way. I love the bumper sticker that says, ‘I don’t care what you know ‘til I know that you care.’”
One of the projects of the Academy of Peer Services (APS) is to create a Community of Practice to provide opportunities for Certified Peer Specialists and others in the peer support workforce to connect, communicate, collaborate, educate, and look for new ways to improve the experience of giving and receiving peer support services.
This month, we (researchers within the Academy of Peer Services) launched a study to investigate the sense of community in and among the different roles and areas of the peer support workforce.
We need your help to gather information to connect the dots in the peer support workforce, particularly the sense of belonging (locally, regionally, and statewide) of those in different areas of the state and roles within the workforce. Whether you are a Certified Peer Specialist, a supervisor, a co-worker on a team with peer specialists, or someone just getting started in your role, your responses can help.
Please take our survey and share your personal experience. It will take about 10 minutes. Then, if you are interested, you can also sign up after the survey is complete to join our mailing list and get more involved in the development of our Virtual Community.
(A belated wish for the new year from our guest blogger, Howard Diamond.)
LOOK, LOOK AHEAD. A poem from Howard Diamond
Look, look to the year ahead,
Will it be filled with happiness or dread?
Some are hungry and need to be fed
Or just need a warm comfortable bed.
Look, look ahead towards greatness and joy,
And seek out all that one can enjoy.
Maybe playing with that holiday toy,
Whether you are a girl or a boy.
Look, look ahead and not behind,
Behold life’s wonders that one can find.
This is not a dream in the mind,
There are nice people that are kind.
Look, look ahead when my life is not happy,
Sometimes, I really think it is totally crappy.
See for yourself, I am not always sweet and sappy,
But I try to feel like a bird with its wings flappy.
Look, look ahead and try not to despair,
Life is not perfect, but some people do care.
Take a chance or a risk, if you dare,
Even if you think that life is not fair.
Look, look ahead it is now 2018,
Before we realize it will be 2019.
For every child, every adult and every teen,
Make it the best year we have ever seen.
Howard, a New York State Certified Peer Specialist
As we begin this new year, it may be a time to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come, both as individuals and as a movement for social change. I was updating the Academy of Peer Services – History of the Peer Movement course over the holiday break and found myself, with each pioneer of the movement, deeply grateful for and in awe of those who had the courage and the tenacity to change the mental health system to one that is far more respectful and kind than it was even a half century ago.
Patrick Hendry of Mental Health America recently produced a video on this history called, “From Asylums to Recovery.” It is well worth the less than half hour to pause and reflect on the heroes of our movement.
From Asylums to Recovery (23:38 minute video)
The first term of 2018 opens on January 8, and I encourage you to take a look at some of the updates. There are many more resources about our history available now than ever. As we move forward, let us not forget to look back with gratitude for those who brought us where we are today.
We wish you a happy new year and look forward to your participation in the Academy of Peer Services and the Virtual Community.
~ Rita / Community Coordinator