Bringing Awareness – Recovery Through Friendship

Written on by Olga Antonyuk, Compeer Director

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and National Recovery Month. Voice and Vision, Inc. attended four events during September to share resources and stories of recovery.  Our ongoing work through programs like Compeer and CompeerCORPS and our Help and Hope Guide focuses on spreading awareness about mental health, substance use, and suicide with the hope people will get help and support when needed. Suicide is highly linked to mental health diagnoses such as anxiety, bipolar, and depression, and/or challenges with substance use and other disorders. Preventing and treating mental health and substance use disorders are the first line of defense in preventing suicide.   

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 45,979 individuals died by suicide in 2020, which is about 1 death every 11 minutes. According to Stop Soldiers Suicide, Veterans are at a 57% higher risk to die by suicide than those who haven’t served, and tragically 125K+ Veterans have died by suicide since 2001.  A study noted in the National Library of Medicine in 2018 reports, “social connections can act as a buffer against the impact of stressful or negative life experiences on mental health. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO) also cites social connection as a crucial method in preventing suicide.” 

The core component of Compeer and CompeerCORPS is social connectedness through developing friendship matches between two adults of the same gender. Through CompeerCORPS a Veteran volunteer connects with a Veteran in mental health recovery. CompeerCORPS serves as a bridge to enhance wellness and promote community connections. This supportive friendship/mentoring relationship is designed to help overcome feelings of loneliness, fear, and isolation. CompeerCORPS’ friendships are developed in various ways both in-person and virtually such as while walking, sharing stories, going to a gym, movie, or coffee shop, phone calls, e-mails, etc. – with the goal to keep in touch through good and rough times.

Voice and Vision Inc. is excited to announce we received a Veterans’ Trust Fund Grant to expand the CompeerCORPS program to reach more Veterans in more significant ways. The grant provides funding to develop a podcast, workshops, and support groups and enables us to make more Veteran matches. Interested in joining CompeerCORPS as a volunteer or a participant? For more information, please take a look at our program brochure. If you want to become a volunteer or make a referral to CompeerCORPS, please visit our website or call 610-541-0790.  

Here is a testimony from one of our Compeer Friends:

“Personally, I was diagnosed with a mental health challenge in my early 20’s due to my first attempt at committing suicide. I believe in the beginning suicide was an answer for me because I felt the world would be better off without me in it. There were so many times when I thought everyone hated me, and I did not have the emotional support I needed. It was like a dark cloud hanging over me. I worked full-time for years, and I was so scared if fellow employees found out about my mental health diagnosis, they would treat me differently. Eventually, there was a serious mental health episode that led to my doctor, family, and myself to decide that I should go on Social Security Disability. I discovered a non-profit organization called Compeer of Suburban Philadelphia. They match volunteers up with a client who has a mental health challenge. The volunteer helps the client achieve goals and gets them out in the community. I became a volunteer because I wanted to help somebody out who maybe did not have a good support system, which is what I felt for a long while. My match is the only person I know besides myself dealing with a mental health disorder, and we both support each other.”

A supportive friendship is like a tree of hope and light on a path to recovery!!


24/7 National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988


References:

https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html

https://stopsoldiersuicide.org

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142169/

https://www.suicideinfo.ca/local_resource/socialconnectedness/

https://compeerfriends.org/compeercorps

Original image: jeremy-bishop-EwKXn5CapA4-unsplash.jpg

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