Addiction and mental health disorders have always been diseases of isolation. By definition, addiction is a relationship formed between an individual and a substance rather between two human beings. When individuals are consumed by their relationship with alcohol or drugs, the substance becomes the central focal point of their lives, psychologically and physiologically. Important relationships such as family and friends, fall by the wayside as the person with the substance use disorder (SUD) becomes deeply engulfed in the flames of addiction and social isolation.
Mental health disorders carry significant stigma, arguably even more so than addiction. Those of us who are affected are afraid of being judged, rejected, or ridiculed. It often seems better to just stay at home and isolate. But isolation is not compatible with recovery. To fully heal, we have to rejoin the world at large. And mentors are perhaps the best tool for that.
In behavioral health recovery, mentors are called peers. Evidence-based peer recovery support is characterized by the provision of non-clinical peer support. This includes activities that engage, educate, and support the individual in making the changes needed to recover from substance use and/or mental health disorders.
Peer support providers offer valuable guidance. Mentors share their own experiences in recovery from SUD and/or mental illness and they help us to build skills — assisting and addressing specific needs that someone with behavioral health issues is faced with in early recovery. And by improving social connectedness and helping us to identify new positive social environments.
Peer recovery support providers also maintain the concept of “keeping recovery first” by meeting individuals where they are in the recovery process. Another import aspect is the fact that peer providers are involved in all aspects of the program, including programmatic structure, leadership and overall strategies of the support services offered.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that: “Peer mentors/peer support providers are becoming an increasingly important part of the treatment and recovery continuum, and could also help create an environment and community where recovery is supported and individuals are working towards a better community.” That’s the recovery field leading the way through mentorship!