Monthly Archives: October 2012

What is Peer Support?

What is Peer Support?

by Vancouver Mental Health Services Peer Support Students, Class of 2012-13

Giving people hope

Helping people achieve their goals

Supporting people until they are strong enough to do it themselves

Creating a safe container for folks to build self-esteem

Helping people discover their strengths

Sharing personal stories for the benefit of the peer

Having a unique “peer” perspective

Sharing strengths

Helping people to feel comfortable with themselves

Helping people to believe in themselves again

Being a positive example

Being a supportive presence

So, what does peer support mean to you?


Another Idea of Mental Illness

This article, by guest blogger Susan Trapp, explores the author’s ideas re: mental illness, spirituality and recovery. Susan Trapp is one of the author’s of Evening: the frayed edges and Evening: the frayed edges: Ripples of Recovery.

Another Idea of Mental Illness

By Susan Trapp

Spiritual emergence is sometimes called mental illness. It is the experience of spirituality merging with daily life. It is how a person relates to his or her spiritual side. It is how one develops empathy for his fellow man. Today it is called recovery and one of the signs of recovery is hope.

You will find many ways mental illness causes one to focus only on oneself. There are many people who refuse to go through the process of finding oneself. It is even harder sometimes when one has to deal with chemical treatment. Sometimes it causes one to keep from connecting to others. One option is constant sleeping. Sleep can be a form of denial. Being highly sedated keeps us from dealing with those feelings that keep us from joining with others in community. These feelings are the healing needed to merge our spiritual side to our physical side.

When viewing mental illness this way one wonders how does one merge the spiritual with the physical. Some pray constantly. Religion gives meaning and order to life. It also gives hope to community. One sings and prays with other people. One shares the weekly experiences with others. One also prays for those who spread hope for people in other parts of the world.  One keeps community as a spiritual merging with the physical continuing in the form of recovery. Hope is a big form of recovery.

Another form of recovery is finding meaningful work in the community. Work can be a very individualized profession but all work is relating to the community. It is about reaching out and connecting with others in our own way. Giving to others can help our spiritual side merge with our physical.

All life is part of this process. Life is constantly creating and recreating itself. We move with it in its onward rush. This is all part of community. No one is left out or left behind. We cannot see the goal. It is not ours to understand. It is all part of a master plan of which we are a part. We do at times see glimpses of eternity or just where our next step will lead us. What an adventure we have in store.  Who says there is no life in mental illness and the rest of our lives will lead us nowhere. We are just on another path. One even better than we can imagine.

Morning Light

Today’s blog entry is from Peer Support Worker, Michael Varma. It is an excerpt from his book, The Gong Show: Reinventing Self and includes a description of his experience of hearing voices. You can get more information about his book at

Morning Light

Outside, the blowing wind made me cringe. I disliked things out of my control. Apparently even nature was subject to my prejudice. I smiled. The wind now felt like a long lost friend. It tarried a while until the pain of enjoyment became almost unbearable. Unable to recall the last time I felt something as sensual as the wind on my face; sorrow-filled memories welled up of times long passed. Feeling was dangerous; feeling hurt. I had no time to feel. My mind snapped shut returning all to memory.

The streets were eerily dead; surprising considering it was the West End. I wiped the evidence of ordeal from my face as if straightening my tie for a job interview, hoping to find any place that’d put up with me and my paranoia. It was ironic I should be concerned about my looks so close to the end. The confusing arrival of light turned to fear of exposure. A musical chorus of birdsong revealed how early it was.

Enchanted by their natural praise for the gift of life, I wondered what song humanity sang? What song did I sing? Did they know something I didn’t and who were they singing for and why? They seemed indifferent to the machinations of the human world s if existing on another plane altogether. A friend pointed out the ‘obvious’ fact that even animals knew how to live and take care of their needs. Had I become less than an animal in not knowing how to take care of mine?

Confused, I wanted to trade my existence for theirs. Gentle, sweet sounding voices expressed their disbelief and concern. “Why?” I asked, “should it matter if I was an animal or not.” ‘Ah, potential,’ came the reply. Yes, even in my madness that made sense. A human being had more potential than a bird and an animal, but to do what? Their lives seemed to run on a simple program called ‘survival’: eat, sleep and repeat. What did they do with their free time? ‘Thankful enjoyment,’ a chorus of voices resounded; singing in praise. Overcome by warm feelings, I saw how being thankful for the gift of life itself – gratitude, was indeed a worthy goal. What was more beautiful than that? But what could I do when it was already too late for me?

Around me, the few ‘early birds’ were making their way to work. “What made them continue on with the obvious lie they called life?” I asked searchingly. “They look like robots asleep at the wheel.” ‘Listen to yourself,’ a quiet voice said, making me aware of my judgmentality. “What does it matter,” I retorted in half-hearted sarcasm, “I’ll be dead soon.” ‘Look again.’ The voice spoke with such gentle authority and grace that I had to comply – I had no reason not to! I looked not seeing anything out of the ordinary. ‘Keep looking.’ I looked and looked and looked until frustration, fueled by my paranoid need to be right, tottered on rage. ‘Keep looking,’ the voice said encouragingly.

Then something changed. People walked by; ordinary people wearing ordinary clothes, walking ordinary gaits down ordinary streets on their way to ordinary jobs – all exceedingly ordinary.  My mind, on the other hand, had become anything but ordinary. It was quiet!

Trying not to stare, but needing to look nonetheless, I looked into their eyes, the mirrors of their soul, and gasped. An energy field emanated from them reminding me of the fabled life force I’d heard so much about. “So what,” I bulleted out, but the damage had been done. In them I recognized something I’d somehow lost, given up or never had. Regardless of my judgments, they had a sense of purpose and direction that worked for them. Was that my task, my raison d’être, to find my own purpose and direction in my own life? But it was too late for me, wasn’t it?

As my heart melted, a small glow emanated from people much like lamplight on a misty night. “Is that their aura,” I asked in awe, but my attention was held and drawn further inward. “What am I looking for now, the light bulb inside?” I asked sarcastically. Below their heart centers a small burning flame burned; bright in some and barely a flicker in others, yet alight nonetheless. Even those I’d judged as mere robots carrying such a flame and that it was still alight! ‘It is in each and every one of us,’ the soft-spoken voice informed. ‘It is what we do with our life that makes it burn brighter or dimmer.’ I was truly humbled.

As if awakening from a dream, the sun made its morning debut and I found myself across the street from the Blenz coffee shop at Davie and Bute. Feeling even more exposed and vulnerable, I longed for the company of others. Even homeless drug addicts would do.

A determined breeze cleared away the night’s thoughts. “The winds of change,” I reasoned. Knowing change could come in many forms, I tactically stepped back inside my shell.

© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael J. Varma and The Gong Show with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.