By Darlene Wetzel
The weekend of April 13–15, NAMI Washtenaw County had the opportunity to train six new mentors for Peer-to-Peer, our class for people who live with mental illness. We’ve committed to expanding the number of our classes in the next fiscal year, and to do that we definitely needed more mentors to teach our classes.
Bethany Young decided to become a mentor after taking the Peer-to-Peer class herself. She shared her enthusiasm after the training at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital was done.
“I decided to continue with NAMI as a volunteer and have just finished training as a mentor myself,” Young said. “I am really motivated and excited to participate as a mentor and volunteer with NAMI in support, education and advocacy of others who live with mental illness.”
Expansion plans for Peer-to-Peer include a new class launched at Chelsea Hospital this spring as well as two classes in the works for men and women who live with mental illness in the Washtenaw County Jail. A new class located in Ypsilanti is being planned for September.
When I visited the training, our mentor students were intently studying facilitation skills should a class member feel suicidal during a session. While the issue does not come up frequently, mentors need to be prepared to keep participants safe as they deal with very stressful topics that come up in people living with a mental illness.
Other topics typically covered in the training are group facilitation skills, the major diagnosis categories for mental illness and how doctors reach a diagnosis. Sometimes it takes years before the right diagnosis is reached.
NAMI volunteers Pat Root and Jon Gallagher led the training sessions. Kathy Walz, a behavioral health professional at Chelsea Hospital, stepped up to get us a room at the last minute and provide for mentor manuals.