The Newspaper for Peers & the Peer Workforce
From the Editor 2020
By Dan Frey, Editor in Chief
Support is Here for the Taking
I hope that you are coping well with the harshness of winter and dealt well with the major holidays. This time of year can be cold and lonely for a lot of people. I find that working on something can help and I have been working hard. This year, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the City Voices newspaper!
We now have a 10-member editorial board that’s been meeting on a quarterly basis to plan newspapers and other projects that are in the pipeline. Editorial board member Max Guttman has written an article on how to cope with the winter season and its harsh conditions: the low temperatures and the difficulties of maintaining your mental and physical wellbeing during this time. Please give it a read.
We have begun a monthly peer worker support group called “Peer Workers United” to help peer specialists with the challenges they face personally and in their work environments. I run this group with editorial board member Edward ODowd, a peer specialist with Community Access, a non-profit that provides the space where we meet. I am learning about the highs and lows of the peer profession from the people who are actually doing the work. If this group grows, we would like to see other groups sprout up around the city. Some estimates say that there are close to 1,000 peer specialists working or living in New York City.
A major issue of concern for employers is that peers can become unwell during the course of their employment and everybody loses if that happens. I’d like to see our groups help peer workers to develop a strong support network if they don’t already have one and maybe we can prevent loss of work time or worse just by looking out for one another.
A mentoring program is in the works. We are seeking to partner with providers who can connect mentors to mentees. We hope to foster bonds that will help participants to maintain their wellness and to foster a learning environment and sharing of valuable skills. Physical isolation in our social media age is real, especially for people coping with mental health challenges. We hope that the mentoring experience will challenge people to become more active in the community and battle the self-stigma that comes from having a diagnosis; that feeling that you don’t belong or are less than what you really are. Building back confidence is key to helping someone get their life together. I believe mentoring can do that. It worked for me.
The healthy cooking group is going well. Thanks to Fountain House for providing the kitchen, the volunteers who are members of the clubhouse, the ingredients and the equipment. We hope to partner with them on upcoming events.
Thanks to NAMI NYC Metro for providing us with the space and resources to conduct our editorial board meetings as well as their advertising support. They have a large number of weekly support and information groups, one of which helps people who are voice-hearers. This group de-pathologizes voice-hearing and focuses on coping strategies. Check out all their offerings: naminycmetro.org/support-groups.
A video project is in the works that will highlight our accomplishments and the value of the work that we are doing. Once all the footage and all the interviews are done, we hope to have a brief promotional video posted on social media, email campaigns and our website. The extra footage will be archived for future use.
Finally, we are planning our 25th anniversary celebration organized by editorial board members Ellen Stoller, the force behind the annual peer specialist conferences, and Teresa Burgado, also an experienced event planner and social media savant, a peer specialist who works at Howie the Harp Advocacy Center.
We have a lot going on, but we also manage time to support the works of others like Carla Rabinowitz’s film festivals, #HALTsolitary campaigns, rallies against violent police responses, Bring It Home housing rallies, anti-stigma comedy shows, and other events and meetings. The community is vibrant. The support is here for the taking. Take. Please take. Make some friends for life. I personally know that it can be a struggle to maintain wellness. Find your supports. Take risks. Put yourself out there a little bit. I firmly believe that it is worth the effort.