In Response to the Peer Supporters Who Want Government Funding
As some of you may know, I write pieces that sometimes get a lot of hate mail in response to them. This is normal for a writer with an opinion. It happens here, it happens with newspaper pieces, it happens in response to books, it happens absolutely anywhere a writer stands out and says something others consider controversial. (Sometimes, people even threaten to sue me.)
I totally get that and pay it no mind, as a general rule. In fact, I mostly don’t talk to critics as I have very limited time and feel they are not worth it. I write for the people who respond positively to my work, not those who don’t. If you want to know my thoughts, I suggest you reread the article, as that’s where they are.
Peer-Support-Based Initiatives Funding Clarifications
However, I am making an exception today. People have so misrepresented my views and so spewed such ridiculous notions that I feel compelled to at least clarify a few things.
Here is my additional clarification on We Shouldn’t Fund Peer Support-Based Initiatives for Mental Illness.
1. Why do you only like medication and hate therapy?
First off, this isn’t true. I neither “like” nor “dislike” any particular treatment but, rather, believe that mental illness medications work for most people (statistically true) and believe that, for serious mental illness, a person needs to have a degree of stability before therapy even has a chance of taking hold. I, myself, have had lots of therapy, both individually and in groups. The difference there is that every one of those was facilitated by an actual professional such as a doctor or a psychologist. And while, in the groups, people were obviously like me — had a mental illness — I would not call that a “peer-support-based initiative” by its very definition.
I also attended a peer-run support group for months. I was not impressed. (And this had nothing to do with the attendees.)
And, in case you’re wondering, I suggest professional therapy to people all the time. The literature shows that people who get therapy and medication treatment together do better than people who get either one alone. There’s nothing not to like about that. Unfortunately, many people do not have access to professional therapy.
2. You misunderstand all the types of peer support.
3. Isn’t what you do peer support?
Not in my opinion. If I had to categorize myself I would say I’m a highly-knowledgeable source of psychoeducation. I do not, typically, do one-on-one peer support with anyone. I try to help people where I can, but that’s a little different. True, I do take on personal clients but, again, we’re talking about psychoeducation here and not “support” per se.
But even if I did do peer support, it wouldn’t matter because my argument is the same: government funding should not pay me to do what I do, whatever you call it.
4. You’re wrong. Peer support is evidence-based.
Um, okay. If you say so. I pointed to two 2014 meta-analyses that say otherwise for people with serious mental illnesses and, so far, no one has brought me a more recent study that says anything else.
The one thing that all the commentary has convinced me of is this: In the case of very well, professionally-trained staff, with the right oversight, professional conduct and setup, it is possible that peer support people could provide a service that would be evidence-based, I’m just not sure what this would look like.
5. Peer support doesn’t take money away from other programs.
I hate to break it to you but when you spend budget on one thing, you have to cut somewhere else. That’s kind of the nature of money. It’s finite.
And even if this were the case — say the money was taken out of the roads budget and it didn’t touch healthcare — I would still say that money needs to go to mental illness treatment. Period. People need treatment to become stable before anything else will help.
Once we manage to keep the mentally ill off the street and unfairly out of jail and offer them actual, medical care, then maybe I’ll think leftover money should go to other things. Oddly, I don’t think we’ll get to that point.
6. Peer support worked for me.
Okay. I believe you. People are different and people respond to different things. You’re allowed to find effective what you find effective.
7. I’ll never read you again, you’re evil.
Again, um, okay. That is certainly your prerogative. I will mention, however, that, as of today, 467 posts have been published on Bipolar Burble and if you’re irate at 0.002% of them, I think I’m doing okay.
8. You’re just paid by the drug companies.
I get this one all the time and it’s always unfounded. No drug company pays me. That’s it. And even if they did, my opinions are my own. Always have been.
Update: See this great article from an ex-SAMHSA employee that talks about this very issue: The Federal Government Ignores the Treatment Needs of Americans With Serious Mental Illness.
Quick note on the image: I was referring to how people felt about the last piece not about how I feel about the commenters.
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About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.