PEERS Perspectives is a blog series that offers thoughts and reflections from our staff and community members on mental health, current events, and the ways they affect our lives.

Today’s post on Mental Health perspective is written by Program Evaluation Specialist Sarah Marxer

Gratitude for the Peer/Consumer Community

In this time when we have to be so much more separate from each other than we’re used to, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to me to be part of the PEERS community — and the broader community of people with lived experience of mental health challenges. Today, I offer this appreciation of our community. Thank you for being a part of it.

What do I love about this community? Here are three things.

Truly Welcoming

Lots of communities and organizations aspire to be welcoming and inclusive, but I’ve never experienced a community that puts this idea into practice as well as the peer community. For example, at gatherings like the annual conference of the Alameda County Pool of Consumer Champions (POCC), almost everyone gives a warm welcome to anyone who comes to sit at their table. Do we have further to go and more to learn about how to welcome everyone? Most certainly — but the rest of the world has a lot to learn from us about being truly inclusive. No one has to earn their way into this community.

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

This community is a place where it really is okay not to be okay. We know how to make space for people to be having a hard time, without trying to fix it or pretend that’s not what’s happening. 

Room for Differences

One of the most remarkable things about people with lived experiences of mental health challenges is the amazing diversity in what’s helped and hurt us — and our tolerance for those differences. In our community, you might find yourself sitting next to someone who had a radically different experience of the same thing. For example, one person might feel that getting a diagnosis saved their life, while another feels that getting that same diagnosis almost ruined their life. Maybe your religion was the greatest source of harm to you, while religion is what made another person’s recovery possible. The same goes for so many things: medication, hospitalization, etc. This community makes room for our wildly different experiences and paths to healing.

That’s the beginning of my list of things I love about this community. What do you love about it?