What the Consumer Speakers' Bureau Has to Offer
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
Consumers helping consumers
Marvin Spieler
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What follows is a speech to be given to a consumer committee. It expresses my thoughts on recovery. As director of the Consumer Speakers' Bureau, I and my speakers spread the word that recovery is possible or likely.
I would like to tell you why I am still involved in the mental health system. Second, what motivates me to run the Consumer Speakers' Bureau. Third, what we attempt to do. And lastly, what we actually do to help consumers.

I believe in the value and dignity of men and women, especially of those who suffer from mental illness.

I believe recovery is possible. It takes strength of the human spirit and determination, support from peers, medication if prescribed, a supportive family and whatever else helps one recover. Staying hospital free requires all this. For me, an added ingredient is the fear of returning to a hospital which haunts me to this very day.

Being hospital-free is the first step. Basic in my eyes are a place of your own to call home, a place to come to each day whether it be a day program or having vocational opportunities leading to a meaningful job, friends and a partner.

The peer advocacy and peer specialist programs are probably the most uplifting aspects of the consumer empowerment movement for me. Peers helping peers is a tremendous step forward. The empowerment movement helps by adding newer modalities.

Maintaining and expanding our rights as peers afflicted by mental illnesses is paramount.

Stigma generated by all forms of the media must continue to be fought against and eliminated. However, the stigma we carry in ourselves is as great or a greater problem. Low self-esteem caused by stigma saps the hearts and minds of our fellow consumers.

The fear to reveal our illness is tragic. We have done nothing wrong and yet most of us feel this way.

Your role as peer advocates and peer specialists is one of role models, keeping peers alive with hope and even revitalizing their souls.

Now what does this have to do with the Consumer Speakers' Bureau of the Mental Health Association of New York City?

The Bureau attempts to inspire hope, determination, courage and perseverance?a tall order to achieve. We hope to light a candle in a room filled with darkness.

It is crucial to give of ourselves, to give hope by showing another consumer is making it, telling their story of recovery, to say that determination is needed, that it takes courage to succeed and persevere.

The message comes through in what the speaker says and how he or she says it. The thoughts come out and feelings are expressed on mental health issues like having hope for recovery, the need for a support system, medication compliance, future possibilities of what peers are doing for one another, working and advocating. Recovery is likely in this day and age because of changes in the mental health system. You are examples of what is now possible.

I see a better future for peers as a whole. I just want others to have this opportunity.

The Bureau works for you. Volunteer so you can help your peers.

To providers I say this: "You won't be disappointed by the Bureau." References are available on request.
For more info on the Consumer Speakers' Bureau, call or write Marvin Spieler, Director, MHA of NYC, 666 Broadway, Rm 200, New York, NY 10012, Phone: (212) 614-6339.
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