Helping Others: Peer-to-Peer Support
July 27, 2016

For the past four years, our Janian Medical Care has gathered a group of formerly homeless men and women who received psychiatric services to serve on the PPOH Consumer Advisory Board (CAB). Members directly interact with individuals, using their lived experience of mental health challenges and homelessness to connect, engage and support others facing similar situations.

On June 22nd, CAB led a mental health fair at The Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea. Following last year’s successful outreach event to individuals, CAB members were eager to once again offer help and resources to those in need.

In the span of a few hours, CAB was able to offer services and resources to more than 90 individuals. The board conducted depression and anxiety screenings, and provided referral information for mental health, addictions, primary care, housing, and food services. CAB members also handed out support bags that included first-aid materials, a bag, a poncho, and socks – valuable items for the homeless while out on the street.

“It’s a way of giving back. We’re all working together to achieve a common goal. My saying about this is ‘team work to make the dream work’,” said CAB member Daniel.

Daniel has been a member for two years and finds his active participation in CAB events to be a powerful way of inspiring change in others. Daniel continues to be amazed at the outpouring of people that are interested in what the board has to offer. “Last years’ experience at the event was so positive that I found I wanted to continue doing this as long as I can.”

This kind of sentiment resonates with other CAB members, like Freddie. Freddie suffered with anxiety all of his life, until five years ago. “[Janian] helped me dump out all the negativity I had inside of me and put positive stuff back in,” said Freddie. He joined CAB because he wanted to give back and has been an active participant for four years now. “I figured if I could reach one or two people, my life would be worthwhile.”

CAB provides consumers with a way to shape the clinical services that Janian provides so that they are most empowering for people with mental health challenges. Members provide feedback to leadership about clinical services and the types of programs Janian offers to individuals in need.

“The members are expert consultants and administrative advocates who provide us with recommendations about how to improve our services.” said Tony Carino, Janian’s Associate Medical Director for Psychiatry.

This past year, CAB members facilitated an educational event for PPOH psychiatrists. Members discussed their experience and taught best practices in communicating mental health diagnoses to consumers during PPOH Grand Rounds.

Previously, the board has held mental health fairs at The Church of the Holy Apostles and the Green Expo at the Times Square supportive housing residence. The peer-to-peer model of support has been powerful in helping address the stigma and barriers to care faced by those with mental health issues.

Given the demand, their goal is to continue expanding. They’re currently recruiting for new members, hoping to provide access and outreach to a wider population.

We are so proud of their work!