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CPS Blog: An Empowering Peer Support Program for Young People

June 1, 2018

By Amey Dettmer, Program Coordinator, NTAC Doors to Wellbeing Program of the Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery

Since a young age, I have personally struggled with my own mental health and the impact of trauma. Because of these experiences and the challenges they brought to my life, I have sought help in numerous types of settings. Through my own life experience, I have learned that I need to make self-care a priority for my wellbeing.

For my wellness self-care this weekend, I decided on an activity that offers me time for relaxation. I watched some of the second season of the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. To me, this show speaks on many of the important mental health issues that go on for millions of young people throughout this country. It demonstrates the impact of trauma, loneliness, and stress. The show, in my opinion, examples a realistic picture of how and why people struggle to work through our mental health and creates understanding for how such difficult challenges can happen to anyone and exhaust our ability to be well.

I was pleased to see emphasis in this show on how supportive and healing a group setting, where it’s safe to talk about our experiences, can be. In the show, Jessica, a rape survivor, was introduced to a peer support group where she could connect with others who understand and could empathize with her experiences. Similar to Jessica’s friend Nina, who introduced Jessica to the group, for me, a key element of my recovery and wellness is access to peer support group setting that matches with my self-directed plans for my own journey. A peer support group was one of the most beneficial places that allowed me and continues to allow me to find healing and comfort in my life.

This is one of the reasons why I feel very fortunate to have been involved in the development and piloting of a peer support group created by and for young people. Peer Generation Youth Empowerment is a newly developed, youth-facilitated program that creates this needed space for us to safely share about our experiences, unique identities, and to support us in recognizing our own needs and ideas for self-care so that we can do all the things we want to with our lives. This peer-led program also supports us in learning ways to give back and support our own communities in navigating through the struggles of mental health difficulties that exist for so many of us.

Traumatic things happen in today’s society. That is why a peer support program like Peer Generation Youth Empowerment is so important. When a person makes the decision to seek support for our own challenges, it can be a scary, yet rewarding step toward personal wellness. Youth everywhere in this country talk about needing more options and access to mental health support. So often we feel we have no place to talk about the common struggles that cause us such distress.

The Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery wants to make sure youth have access to opportunities where we can speak openly about our experiences and find healing. Peer Generation Youth Empowerment is a program that mutually educates us on ways for practicing resiliency in our lives. It’s a program that strives to empower the young leaders within us so that we can also give back and support others who may also be struggling. In today’s times, mutual group peer support is needed more than ever, especially for today’s generation of youth and young adults.

For more information about this new and exciting program, Doors to Wellbeing National Technical Assistance Center offers a recorded webinar titled: Empowering Youth as Mental Health Peer Specialists. Please use the following link to view the recording:


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