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Thursday, 27 April 2017

National Certification is Bad for Peer Specialists

Mental Health America (MHA) just released the first ever national certification for Peer
Specialists, and we want you to understand why that is terrible news.
 
First, although Mental Health America bills themselves as an advocacy organization, they do not speak for, nor are they run by individuals who have first hand experience receiving services in the psychiatric system. Their president, Paul Gionfriddo, is a parent who has supported forced treatment laws. He is also known for the development of the ‘4 Stages of Mental Illness’ model that equates ‘Stage 4 mental illness’ with (basically) Stage 4 cancer (a concept that is misleading and insulting to many of us). Additionally, MHA is known for taking extraordinary amounts of funding from pharmaceutical companies.
 
Other issues include, but are certainly not limited to:
  • Training peer supporters to not "get in the way"
  • A peer supporter refusing contact on these sorts of bases would be a violation of the very nature of peer-to-peer relationships.
  • This training is being offered online. Peer support is centered around human connection and relationships. It does not fit with the impersonal nature of a computer screen.
While MHA claims to have consulted with a select few that have psychiatric histories, this is not the same as the process having been led by a peer-run organization or group. When questioned on this point, Patrick Hendry (Vice President of MHA’s Peer Advocacy, Support and Services) essentially said that MHA took it on because no peer-run group had already done so.
 
This is not sufficient justification.
 
We hope that you will join us in boycotting this certification and asking others to do the same.
It is costly both in dollars and to our integrity.
For details on the training itself: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/center-peer-support
Another troubling element of the certification is its actual content. Patrick Hendry has also been quoted speaking to the importance of people in peer roles learning about clinical interventions so that they don’t ‘get in the way’. An example cited was having a peer supporter not offer someone support when a therapist has made the decision to ‘withdraw’ under a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) framework. However, that ignores the fact that a peer supporter refusing contact on this basis would be a violation of the very nature of peer-to-peer relationships. This is just one area where the content misses the mark.
 
There is also the enormous issue of this training being offered on-line. Peer support is centered around human connection and relationships. It does not fit with the impersonal nature of a computer screen. Perhaps this is just one reason why no peer-run organization has previously taken on this task. Ultimately, this development is a sign of the further co-optation of peer roles. This point is spoken to by Darby Penney and Laura Prescott in the book, ‘Searching for a Rose Garden: Challenging Psychiatry, Fostering Mad Studies’. It is also spoken to by New York-based psychiatrist, Peter Stastny, in his recent talk at the International Network for Alternatives in Recovery (INTAR)
conference in India. (That talk is viewable here: https://youtu.be/5viiiDwj86o)
 
We hope that you will join us in boycotting this certification and asking others to do the same.
It is costly both in dollars and to our integrity.
For details on the training itself: www.mentalhealthamerica.net/center-peer-support

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