A July Day…


                                                                                                     by Howard Diamond   


OK, everyone jump in the pool. It is time for us to learn how to swim. Maybe we all know how, so  it is time to practice what we have learned. Or perhaps, we just get wet and feel the water splashing our bodies cooling off from 🌅 summer’s heat. Listen, I hear music playing and many laughing. Smelling food 🌭from a grill. Spending some time outside 😃 each sunny day as it comes. Most of us enjoying the recent holiday Independence Day 🎆without a care in the world.

Suddenly, with no advanced warning reality begins to set in. Bright skies turn gray, then it to black and in a second everything 🛑 stops. In the distance,  I see up ahead something familiar. It is not the signpost from The Twilight Zone. As I awake, I realize it was all a dream. Here my day begins. Eight a clock 🕗and I hear the TV 🖥 that I left on  talking again about COVID19 🎙spuing the current stats of deaths and hospitalizations. How very upsetting. Although, I am not employed as a Certified Peer Specialist, I assist myself and others with  my skills.

Using my tablet, many days I attempt to connect 💻with people from other countries 🌎 with their different cultures. Like most individuals, they are dealing with their current situation the way they can. This person states they drink 🍺 too much, so I try Harm Reduction. On one day, I employed relaxation techniques to a man who barely leaves his home due to his stress of both COVID19 and anxieties. Others are local residents so it’s time to work with their budget or lend an ear and listen. Each individual needs to be 📢 heard.

By being a Certified Peer Specialist,  I feel it is my responsibility to assist people where and when I can.  No payments are given for my services. It is my feeling of satisfaction plus internal reward that drives me. Other Peer Specialists, can think of many possible volunteer opportunities to find a way to give back. Furthermore, I write these articles to promote what Peer Specialists CAN ACCOMPLISH!  WE DO ACCOMPLISH!  Look we are continually growing in numbers and in many more avenues of life. Do your part, too. One Peer Specialist at a time.

Most importantly, we do not need violence to solve our issues. Of course, I know that being different is difficult right now, but violence is not an answer to problems. Eventually, this causes others. Respect each other as individuals,  not only as a race. Remember first we are ALL human beings. Since COVID19 is still around and gaining strength again, we have to stay and be safe. Wear those 😷 masks, remain six feet apart and have only small social gatherings. We owe this to each other. Yes, we do! Five years later, I long for my significant other, Maureen. Sweetie, I love you ❤, I miss you ❤ and I still wish you ❤ were here. See you in the News Column.

Howard Diamond,  Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island,  New York.

iNAPS Takes a Stand Against Systemic Racism

Editor Note: This is a repost from the National Association of Peer Supporters, by Martha Barbone, Director of Operations


In our role as peer supporters, many people whom we support, and many of our colleagues, come from marginalized communities. These individuals and communities continue to face discrimination, oppression, incarceration, injustice and abuse in a broad sense including within the mental health and substance use treatment systems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see black and brown Americans getting sick and dying at disproportionately high rates.

Unfortunately, what we have seen very recently is not new. Now is the time to stand up.

Standing up will look different, and take different forms, for each of us. For us, as an organization we’re committing to additional conversations between the board, staff, and membership, as well as ensuring that our programming and offerings are centering black lives in more ways than we have in the past. We invite our membership and others in the world of peer support to join us on their journey and support us with feedback and ideas throughout this ongoing process.

How and why do we stand up to systemic racism as Peer Supporters?

Core value #6 in The National Practice Guidelines for Peer Specialists and Supervisors of Peer Specialists states:

Peer supporters facilitate change:

Some of the worst human rights violations are experienced by people with psychiatric, trauma or substance use challenges. They are frequently seen as “objects of treatment” rather than human beings with the same fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. People may be survivors of violence (including physical, emotional, spiritual and mental abuse or neglect). Those with certain behaviors that make others uncomfortable may find themselves stereotyped, stigmatized and outcast by society. Internalized oppression is common among people who have been rejected by society. Peer supporters treat people as human beings and remain alert to any practice (including the way people treat themselves) that is dehumanizing, demoralizing or degrading and will use their personal story and/or advocacy to be an agent for positive change.

What facilitating change look like in practice for peer supporters and their supervisors?

View  Core Value #6 here

As peer supporters we have the best tool already at our disposal:


Our work is fueled by our own experiences of being othered and facing discrimination, and our resolve to advocate for others. Draw on your struggles and make them your strengths.

Talking about racism is not going to be comfortable. This is a quote from Leah Harris:

Let’s talk about discomfort. Sometimes I need to make myself bear witness to a thing, even if it hurts. Sometimes I need to be in that hurt, because that’s called empathy, and it’s how I choose to live in this world. Believe it or not, comfort is not my primary objective in life. I am willing to be uncomfortable. Holding space for someone means you also have to be uncomfortable. If you don’t want to be uncomfortable, please don’t ask the person how they are doing in a terrifying unfolding situation. You may get an uncomfortable answer.

This is time for taking action, but what does that actually mean or look like? One may be paralyzed by the abundance of needs, both evident and unexpressed, yet not knowing how to help. We all bring our own worldview based on our experiences. Lack of understanding and the willingness to listen often increases conflict.

Finally, follow your heart. If you see a call to action or a chance to collaborate with others in your community to stand up against systemic racism and injustice, including addressing health inequity, and that speaks to your heart – STAND UP!

If you would like to comment or ask questions about this article please email Martha Barbonembarbone@inaops.org.

To view the Virtual Resources for Peer Support Workers and Virtual Peer Support – click here

Peer Support Approaches for Responding to Fear – Click Here for full article

National Coalition of Mental Health Activists Calls for Ending Police Role in Mental Health Crises

[Editor’s Note: In the few weeks I’ve been on vacation, there have been many important developments in advocacy and policy that may have a significant impact on peer support services. I will post a few of these here in our blog site. Let me know of any other articles or posts  that will impact the peer support workforce.]

WASHINGTON (June 20, 2020)—In light of the repeated senseless killings by police officers of African Americans—many of whom are in a mental health crisis—the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) strongly supports the call by racial justice groups to “unbundle the police” and transfer a significant portion of police funding to health and human services—especially voluntary, community-based services.

“A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation indicates that up to 50 percent of individuals killed by police in the U.S. had disabilities, and a large percentage of those were people with mental health conditions,” said NCMHR founder Daniel B. Fisher, MD, PhD, who himself has lived experience of a mental health condition. “And African Americans are at higher risk than other individuals.”

In addition to their demand to increase funding for housing, job training, and health care, advocates representing a variety of human rights organizations have called for increased funding of mental health and substance use disorder services. “This would protect community members from the intrusion of police into situations involving mental health issues, for which they are insufficiently trained,” Dr. Fisher continued.

“However, there is the risk of replacing police force with mental health coercion,” Dr. Fisher noted. Rather than expanding forced mental health treatment and the number of beds in psychiatric institutions, NCMHR calls for using the increased mental health funding to expand voluntary, trauma-informed, community-based care. These services—such as peer-run crisis respites, warmlines, crisis stabilization units, and crisis outreach services—need to be delivered by ‘peers’—people with lived experience of a mental health condition—as alternatives to institutions.

“These services, which are evidence-based, could greatly reduce the killing by police of people with mental health conditions—especially African Americans, indigenous persons, and other people of color, who are most at risk,” Dr. Fisher said.

The NCMHR consists of member organizations in 27 states and the District of Columbia, and proudly joined 14 other disability rights groups run by persons with disabilities as a founding member of the National Disability Leadership Alliance.

Contact: Daniel Fisher, MD, PhD, info@ncmhr.org, 202-642-4480

We Don’t Need Cops to Become Social Workers: We Need Peer Support + Community Response Networks

(Reprinted Excerpt)
Original Blog by Stefanie Lyn Kaufman-Mthimkhulu, June 6, 2020.

“Replace the cops with mental health workers!” is a really well-intentioned statement, but the current mental health system is also a white-dominated, violent, coercive, and unaccountable structure that disproportionately harms people of color.” — Morgan M. Page

As a Disability Justice organizer, a person with lived experience of madness, Disability, and neurodivergence, and someone who has been incarcerated in psychiatric institutions — I wrote this piece to shed light on why we can’t reform cops into social workers, why we shouldn’t replace cops with mental health professionals, and why abolition + peer support is the only way forward.

For many of our community members, it is dangerous and/or life-threatening to engage with police who are often the first responders for a mental health crisis (mentally ill/mad, Disabled, neurodivergent, and Deaf BIPOC account for over 50% of police deaths and mentally ill/mad, Disabled, neurodivergent, and Deaf folks are 16 times more likely to die in an encounter with police).

I am grateful to have learned + received knowledge from incredible Disabled organizers and scholars, such as Talila LewisLydia X.Z. BrownAlice WongStacey ParkLeah Lakshmi Piepzna-SamarasinhaAzza AltiraifiDustin Gibson, and so many more.
Continue reading on Medium


by Howard Diamond

Summer is here
For all to reflect on the year
And of course, never fear
That Howard is here.

Summer is here to have fun
To enjoy a day or two in the sun
Be safe the virus is not done
And please put away that gun.

Summer is here for all to relax
Not thinking about all these attacks
Trying not to worry about the facts
Time for daydreaming on our backs.

Summer is here as we will leave June
And the heat will arrive very soon
Each night we can stare at the moon
While singing many a happy tune.

Summer is here to have joy
Every girl and every boy
Open your heart and not to be coy
Now everyone lay back and enjoy.

Summer is here for one and all
Moving ahead without a stall
Remember always to answer the call
As summer moves into fall

A poem for summer days and summer nights by
Howard, Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island

Leadership for Uncertain Times

Finding Our Way: Leadership For An Uncertain Time by Margaret Wheatley
(An excerpt)


There is a simpler way to organize human endeavor. I have declared this for many years and seen it to be true in many places. This simpler way feels new, yet it is the most ancient story there is. It is the ancient story demonstrated to us daily by life, not the life we see on the news with its unending stories of human grief and horror, but what we feel when we’re in nature, when we experience a sense of life’s deep harmony, beauty, and power. It is the story of how we feel when we see people helping each other, when we feel creative, when we know we’re making a difference, when life feels purposeful.

For many years, I’ve written and spoken about this ancient new story, and how we might apply it in organizations and communities around the world. I’ve learned that as we understand how living systems operate, we develop the skills we need: we become resilient, adaptive, aware, and creative. We enjoy working together. And life’s processes work everywhere, no matter the culture, group, or person, because these are basic dynamics shared by all living beings. As we work with life, we also rediscover another gift, the great potential of the human spirit. I’ve worked in many places in the world of extreme material poverty. But that challenge fades in comparison to those of us who have forgotten how resilient and vast the human spirit is. Mother Teresa once said that the greatest poverty she saw was in the West because we suffer from spiritual poverty.

Western cultural views of how best to organize and lead (the majority paradigm in use in the world) are contrary to what life teaches. Western practices attempt to dominate life; we want life to comply with human needs rather than working as partners. This disregard for life’s dynamics is alarmingly evident in today’s organizations. Leaders use control and imposition rather than self-organizing processes. They react to uncertainty and chaos by tightening already feeble controls, rather than engaging our best capacities in the dance. Leaders use primitive emotions of fear, scarcity, and self-interest to get people to do their work, rather than the more noble human traits of cooperation, caring, and generosity.

This has led us to this difficult time, when nothing seems to work as we want it to, when too many of us feel frustrated, disengaged, and anxious.

The Era of Many Messes

I find it important, periodically, to ask people to step back and try to see the big picture. This is difficult to do when we’re stressed by so many pressures at work and at home. But when we shift to fifty thousand feet, it’s easier to see that our impotence is not a result of personal failings. Instead, failing to achieve good results is a consequence of living in this time when we’ve reached the end of a paradigm. Many of our fundamental beliefs and practices no longer serve us or the greater world. Worse than that, too many are causing harm and distancing us from the very skills, knowledge, and wisdom that would help. This is the era of many messes.

Some of these we’ve created (although not intentionally,) because we act on assumptions that can never engender healthy, sustainable societies and organizations. We act as if humans are motivated by selfishness, greed, and fear. That we exist as individuals, free of the obligation of interdependence. That hierarchy and bureaucracy are the best forms of organizing. That efficiency is the premier measure of value. That people work best under controls and regulations. That diversity is a problem. That unrestrained growth is good. That a healthy economy leads naturally to a healthy society. That poor people have different motivations than other people. That only a few people are creative. That only a few people care about their freedom.

These beliefs are false. They’ve created the intractable problems that we now encounter everywhere. If you look globally, it’s hard to find examples in any country or any major sector—health, education, religion, governance, development—of successfully solving dilemmas. Attempts to resolve them lead only to more problems, unintended consequences, and angry constituents. While millions of people work earnestly to find solutions, and billions of dollars are poured into these efforts, we can’t expect success as long as we stay wedded to our old approaches. We live in a time that proves Einstein right: “No problem can be solved from the same level of thinking that created it.”

Wheatley, Margaret J. (2005). Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time (pp. 1-3).  Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.


June 2020“June is bustin’ out all over”, is a song from the musical, “Carousel”. Yes, but is it really bustin’ out this year? There are a myriad of things that occur. For me, the month of June itself is bittersweet where both good and bad happened. Now, I am not talking about any candy. Maybe later, read on.

Whether it be longer days it longer days and shorter nights, warmer temperatures or just an abundance of sunshine, summer will begin one day this month. Also, one can plant in the garden and watch everything grow without worrying about frost or snow.  Time to bring the vegetables inside and eat. Mmm good. Like from the end of the song, “Memory”, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “It is so easy to leave me, all alone with memory of my days in the sun …You’ll understand what happiness is”. Yes indeed, there are happy memories for all.

On a personal note,  June 5, 2003, my significant other,  Maureen, walked into my life. Here is what began some of the most wonderful “Days of Our Lives”. Of course, not the soap opera. This is fact, not fiction.  Going to a park or beach, traveling or just being together, we tried to make the best of our situations.  Bittersweet it was, as this did not last.  June 12, 2015, Maureen died, which became one of the worst times of my life. Added to this, my mom died last June 19. As Charles Dickens wrote in ,”Tale of Two Cities”, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

OKAY, time to try to turn my negative into positive. Difficult yes, but it is what is needed. So, now I focus on the sun beaming outside and the birds singing their songs and the smell of fresh air.  Unfortunately, I know the drill, so please do not tell me. Spending time outdoors, helps me stay calm. Maybe, just maybe, we can do our part. Remember to be safe, wear our masks, stay six feet apart from each other and do not congregate.  Safety first always.

As am I writing this article,  there is civil unrest everywhere. Yes,  it is our first amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom to assemble, but how we are obtaining our objectives needs to be peaceful and lawful. Riots and looting are not the answers.  Included in the constitution it states, “the right of the people PEACEFULLY to assemble”. Furthermore,  it is written in the Ten Commandments, “Thou Shall Not Kill “.  I think the police are using excessive force and it has gone on way too long. ERIC GARNER and in the past, RODNEY KING to name two. Today, of course it is GEORGE FLOYD. THIS MUST STOP HERE AND NOW, PEACEFULLY!

We must all try to get along. Together and individually we will get through our dilemmas and our problems. We can, we definitely can! I want to believe in the good in ALL people not just some. ALL PEOPLE. June is bustin’ out. Let’s stand together for change.

Alright, now it is time to give out some sweet, not bittersweet candies.  Finally, I put my attentions on thinking of my good times with Maureen. Wow, it is hard to believe it is now five years later,  “Sweetie”, I love you, I miss you and I  still wish you were here. See you in the Newsletter.

Howard Diamond,  A Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island

Can America Heal Its Racial Wounds? We Asked Desmond Tutu and His Daughter

South Africans surprised everyone by transitioning to a relatively peaceful post-apartheid society. Here’s what Americans can learn.

Yes Magazine


Can we recover from the legacy of slavery, lynching, land theft, disenfranchisement, redlining, job discrimination, and mass imprisonment? We turned to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter the Rev. Mpho Tutu for wisdom on this question.
Desmond Tutu led the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, formed in 1995.
Many people anticipated violence and a breakdown of society as decades of apartheid ended. Instead, the country transitioned relatively peacefully to a multiracial democracy, in part because of the truth and reconciliation process.

Statement On Protests

Western Mass RLC




by Sera Davidow, Western Mass Recovery Learning Community

Dear Community,

On May 28th, we sent out a statement called ‘Racism & the State of Our World.’ You can view it HERE if you missed it. Since then, tensions have continued to rise, with more and more protests rising up across the nation.

Some have asked, “Now that all four officers have been charged in George Floyd’s murder, why haven’t the protests stopped?” It’s essential to understand that while the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minnesota – along with delays in their arrests – certainly raised us to the boiling point, what’s happening right now is not just about George. It’s about the fact that, in Minneapolis, it has been found that black people are seven times more likely to have police force used against them. And, it’s about the fact that that finding is not at all unique to that city. It is about the fact that black people are at least 2.5 times more likely to be killed by the police than white people. It is about the fact that black people are more likely to be randomly stopped by the police. They are more likely to be convicted if charged with a crime, and more likely to receive harsher sentences. No, these protests are not only about the brutal murder of George Floyd, but about the epidemic of racially motivated violence and police brutality that has been going on in this country for many years, and has led to a long list of lives lost and damaged.

(Continue Reading)

A role for lived experience mental health leadership in the age of Covid-19

Louise Byrne

Editorial published on May 23, 2020 in the Journal of Mental Health by Louise Byrne and Til Wykes.
(Excerpt follows.)

In 2020 an invisible assassin has swept across the world, creating chaos, confusion and uncertainty. Covid 19 has taken many people’s health, some people’s lives and the lives of loved ones. It has destroyed livelihoods and put the financial futures of billions at risk. We are helpless, there is nothing to fight back with. We are trapped, we have to stay in our homes. We are physically isolated, our usual freedoms and way of life suspended. As a result, our ability to enact fight or flight is inhibited, increasing the likelihood of lasting impacts on mental wellbeing (van der Kolk, 2014). Life as we know it, at least for a time, has changed so significantly we are reimagining our futures in a variety of ways, with no idea what’s really in store for us. We are collectively holding our breath, fearing the worst and hoping for the best. Never has there been a greater opportunity to stop pathologising the emotional experiences of human beings and start connecting over commonality, sharing stories and strategies to collectively work our way forward. As a global community, we are all engaging with personal recovery on some level and trying to create a new life, with meaning and hope, beyond the effects of Covid 19. At a time when there is a global mental health crisis, the lived experience community has answers that are highly appropriate to the trauma induced situation we’re all facing.

As the prevalence of lived experience/service user/peer/survivor/Mad perspectives have grown in recent years, so recognition of the potential benefits of lived experience roles is growing. There are examples of lived experience work being embraced by organisations and enabled to contribute to systems transformation (Jackson & Fong, 2017). However, instead of welcoming the hands-on, been-there-done-that perspective lived experience brings, the established medical paradigm largely continues to resist the involvement of lived experience, with considerable push back and unwillingness to engage still occurring (Happell et al., 2015; Jones
et al., 2020). There are a number of misconceptions or beliefs underpinning this unwillingness.

(View full article on the Journal of Mental Health)