I was going to start this post with the data. Over 50 millions Americans have a mental health diagnosis. Over half of them get no care at all. Only 30% get therapy. Because they can’t afford it, because their insurance doesn’t cover it, because of stigma, because they live in a county without a single psychologist (that’s 75% of Americans), because the demand for therapy is growing faster than we can train therapists, because waitlists are getting longer. Suicide is the second cause of death among teenagers and young adults. 60% of college students have mental health challenges. 60% of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it. There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a mental health crisis, especially among young people.
Sources: SAMHSA National Survey, Bureau of Labor
I was then going to talk about how we need new solutions, like digital therapeutics and new drugs. That we need to train more people in mental health care, not just experts with Master and PhD degrees. That peer support – people with lived experience of mental health challenges supporting others in their community – is an overlooked solution to the mental health crisis. All of this is true, but it felt like yet another article about mental health, indistinguishable from all the others I’ve been reading.
As I was sitting on the sofa chewing my pencil, my husband looked at me and said, “You’re overthinking this. You need to write it from the heart. What do you want to say?”
What I really want to say is this: You are not alone
Behind all those statistics are real people, like my husband who has been living with bipolar since we first met at university. People who can’t see a way out of their suffering, who blame themselves, who worry their loved ones, who are feeling alone in their pain. Our families and friends, mine and yours.
If you are suffering, I want you to know: You are not alone. Your pain is real, and there are others who have been in that dark cave and have found their way out of it and sometimes, back into it again. People who’ve learned what it takes to pull themselves out of that cave and ask for help.
We want to make it easier for you to share your pain and your story with others who’ve been there. To let them help carry your load because it’s too much for you to carry right now. You deserve this help.
Our peer supporters will support you, one human being to another. They are uniquely qualified to do this because they’ve dealt with mental health challenges themselves, and are in recovery. Our peer supporters bring a variety of life experiences, from struggling with depression or body image to identifying as pansexual or Latinx. They will share their stories of growth and resilience. They won’t judge you and they’re not trying to change you, because they know that you are complete just as you are. Rather, they’re here to listen and to guide you through things that you may not feel equipped to deal with on your own. They will help you find strengths that you didn’t know you have.
Our website and our service certainly aren’t perfect; they’re what tech people call a ‘beta product’. We embrace the imperfections, because we know they will get better as we get feedback from our first users. We’ve built them with care: Our telehealth platform is HIPAA compliant and secure. Our peer supporters are trained to a state certification level. Our head of peer support, Ally, met with every single supporter last week to see if they’re ready, and to provide them the support they may need.
Find your supporters
If you would like to talk to a caring human being about something that’s going on in your life, we have wonderful peer supporters on our peers.net platform who are eager to be there for you. Not only have they gone through training and earned their certification, but they’ve also chosen to show up every day and be vulnerable to help you.
When we asked them why they wanted to become peer supporters, here is what they said:
“I want to be the person I needed when I was younger.”
“If it weren’t for the few people who were able to meet me where I was at mentally in my early twenties, I likely never would have healed. I can only hope to give that back to somebody who needs it in the same way.”
“I’m here because you matter. I know what it’s like to feel as if you’re drowning in your suffering and struggles with no room to breathe. I believe in you and your ability to heal and grow and love. You don’t have to do it alone.”
Some are just as nervous as you are right now. One said in our group chat, “I’m worried that nobody is going to book a session with me”. The others rallied around, reassuring her and making her feel heard – giving each other peer support!
So what are you waiting for?
We hope you’ll join us in this journey. peers.net is now available for 18-30 year olds. Give peers.net a try and see how it feels to talk to someone who gets you.
It might not look like much now, but it’s the beginning of a revolution.