The Power of Peer Support for Mental Health Recovery

As a facilitator of a peer support group for men who have experienced anxiety and/or depression, I have come to discover there are many benefits of peer support groups. In this post I’d like to mention a few.

First, peer groups provide encouragement and support.

Second, participants come to learn that they are not alone in their struggles.

Third, there is level of understanding and empathy that can only be provided by those with common lived experiences.

Fourth, individuals are more likely to be courageously vulnerable because the power gradient among peers is lower compared to the typical power hierarchy in client-provider healthcare relationships.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada underscores the value of peer support:

Peer support initiatives can have a great impact on a person’s journey of recovery. The relationship forged between the peer supporter and the person with a mental health problem or illness can help improve quality of life as well as reduce the need for hospitalization.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada also believes that peer support is undervalued.

I wholeheartedly agree. Perhaps it’s because I have experienced and continue to experience its transformative effects on people’s lives.

The Biggest Fan of My Blog: Not My Wife

Last week I wrote about a recent camping experience in a post titled My Greatest Challenge When Camping: My Wife.

Shortly after it was made public, I received an email.

Thanks for painting me in such a beautiful light she wrote sarcastically.

Thanks for being a good sport I wrote.

Yeah, right. Everyone’s going to think you married a b****.

Don’t worry, babe. No one reads my blog.

Mustard Pranks

Mustard – I don’t like the taste of it, the smell of it, the look of it, the texture of it, the colour of it. It grosses me out to the max. As a matter of fact, my aversion to the condiment began inside the womb, for my mother’s cells loathe mustard as well.

My children, who are at the sweet young ages of five and seven, decide to play a prank on their old man.

They take a bottle of mustard and disguise it using their red crayons.

mustard bottle
Mustard bottle disguised as ketchup.
Photo by B. Fleming

“Hey Dad, we got this new kind of ketchup to try. It’s really good. I think you’ll like it.”

“Um…okay. I’ll try it on my burger.” I cringe at the site of the yellow stream on my hamburger.

“Ah, kids, it kinda looks like mustard to me.”

“Dad, it’s actually ketchup. It’s made from yellow tomatoes. Try it. It’s really good.”

I take a small bite. My senses cry foul at the pungent yellow nastiness. I spit out the mustarded burger in disgust, and my kids laugh and laugh.

Days later, I come home from work.

“Hey Dad, we got you a present today.”

They hand me a mustard shirt. And they laugh and laugh.

mustard shirt
My new T-shirt.
Photo by B. Fleming

 

Post-Anniversary Advice Between Partners

Last week I wrote about the improvised wedding anniversary card I gave to my wife in a post titled What Not To Do On Your Wedding Anniversary.

Shortly after, she emails me a link to a CBC article about the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol. Is she trying to tell me something?

Anyway, in response, I decide to send my red-meat-averse wife a link to an article about the health benefits of eating beef.

I love you, B. Steak tonight?

What Not To Do On Your Wedding Anniversary

Marriage can be hard work.

After years of it, I’m still learning.

I learned a long time ago that for my wife, lavish gifts on special occasions are not as important as sentimental cards.

So this year for our wedding anniversary, I made sure to get a card. But the store I went to didn’t have the greatest selection. I did, however, find a good anniversary card that said, “To my husband…” I purchased the card and with a little creativity, I was able to make it work. In places where the word “husband” appeared, I taped small pieces of paper and wrote “wife.” Below is a picture of my masterpiece.

Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t impressed.

Another lesson learned.

Anniversary Card
Anniversary card to my wife.
Photo by B. Fleming

Requiem For/From A Friend

Thank you for guiding me. You made a difference in my life. And I will miss you.

You said a quiet mind is not a precursor to peace. Your mind keeps going, but you can recognize that you don’t have to get involved with it. Don’t involve yourself. We constantly try to resist everything. This is the mind, you said. Don’t be involved with this resistance, and you will be at peace. Soften...Experience… Create a distance between you and your thoughts. Don’t engage. The mind comes up with many things. Don’t fight your mind. When you don’t engage, the troubling thought is gone. It’s kinda like bubbly bubbly Eno. Don’t identify with your thoughts, your personality. You’ll ask, who is this? But this is not conceptual, you said. This is a feeling, a sense. You will discover a power within yourself so nothing empowers you. With this new power, this new awareness, your general way of being will be at peace.

Thank you for guiding me. You made a difference in my life. And I will miss you.

A Dent In My Boat, But She Keeps Me Afloat

Peace at 7:00 a.m. in a kayak on a summer morning. Just me, my daughter, and nature.

My serenity, however, is broken when I arrive home, for when I unload my kayak, I notice a couple small dents on the hull. I’m angry. How could I have let this happen?

“Man, I can’t believe it! Look at these dents.”

My seven-year-old daughter responds in a calm voice. “Daddy, it’s fine. I have a dent in my water bottle and it still works just fine.”

There is wisdom behind her words. Don’t let the imperfections, the nicks, the scratches, the dents, the depressions—whatever you call them—consume you. Things still work just fine.

Trust: The Gateway to Student Development

I have come to discover that every student has the ability to grow and improve as a learner. By developing a relationship of trust, an environment is created such that students can express their challenges and what they’d like to improve on.

Real growth and development comes from an intrinsic desire to better oneself. A helper can only guide students when that fire is kindled with a supportive, non-judgmental relationship.

Beware the Smelly-Cheese Beard

Humans are very good at recognizing the emotion of disgust in a person’s facial expressions.

The other night I saw it in four faces: my wife’s, my daughter’s, my son’s, and my own.

There was a nasty smell in the house. Foul. Disgusting. Gross. Rank. It was bad.

I suffered the stench for two hours. It seemed like it was so close, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where the putrid smell was coming from.

Finally, it dawned on me. The fetid, rancid, putrid smell was right under my nose. The revolting odour was emanating from my own beard.

Imagine the shame I felt and still feel today. Even Brené cannot help me.

It could have been the corn on the cob or the garlic chicken or the Coors Light or the Staphylococcus hominis. It could have been a combination of them all. But whatever it was, I’m telling you the smelly-cheese beard exists. And if you succumb to it, like Mr. Twit and I have, your wife and kids will never let you live it down.