Navigating the health care system while suffering from a mental illness or addiction can be overwhelming and confusing. But a new program offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Vancouver-Fraser Branch and Vancouver Coastal Health aims to alleviate this stress by connecting individuals with Peer Navigators who have had similar struggles.
The Peer Navigator Program leverages the expertise of individuals who have lived experience with mental illness, substance use or addiction and who understand the social support and health services available in Vancouver. Peer Navigators provide guidance while working with program participants to access social services such as income assistance, legal aid, housing and tenancy, and health-related services.
Peer Navigators are positioned within community agencies and services that provide mental health and substance use services, including MPA Society, Kettle Friendship Society and VCH’s Vancouver Adult Mental Health Intake.
‘Jaimie,’ one of the Peer Navigators, suffered from depression since high school and ultimately had a breakdown that led to hospitalization. This experience eventually led him to work in the mental health field. Now, Jaimie helps his program participants by leading through example. “Being a Peer Navigator means taking someone who is unsure of the system and who they are as a person and helping them discover what they can do in their lives. We’re proof to our clients that they can also make it through—that recover is a reality.”