A Peer Specialist Shares Story of Finding Her Path and Purpose
By Jessica Bloom, CPS
Peer Coordinator/Peer Support Specialist
Adult Mental Health Center for Human Development, Springfield
Finding my way into the peer workforce has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I always felt that my psychiatric diagnosis and my history of hospitalizations, self-injury and extreme states would hold me back. Since I was a child, I thought about working in the mental health field. As someone who survived trauma, I had experience with social workers from a young age and always thought I wanted to help people in that way. As I got older and began experiencing more intense mood swings and suicidal thoughts, I thought that dream (and many others) had passed me by.
Over the years, the mental health system has served me well. It always felt as if there were pieces missing though. I know that in a 12-step model, those who are doing well in their recovery are encouraged to remain a part of things and share their experience, strength and hope. Where was this in mental health services?
As my path of healing grew and I began to look for paid work, I stumbled upon a listing seeking a Peer Support Specialist in a community mental health organization. This was what I didn’t even know I could hope for! The main credential necessary for this position was exactly the lived experience I had been through. Being in this role has been incredibly healing for me personally, hopefully for those that my organization serves, and I believe for the system at large.
As a peer specialist, I provide peer support, but also serve as a change agent for the system. I communicate hope to the individuals I work with, but also to coworkers, supervisors, clinicians and doctors. There is hope for recovery for everyone, no matter how difficult things may be right now. My path has brought me to a place where the pain I have experienced can be useful to other people. The fact that this path now exists is proof that the system is shifting already. I feel extremely proud to be a part of that.
Article originally appeared in:
A publication of the
Massachusetts Department of Mental Health