National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Peer Run Services

People who live with mental illness can and do recover. Often, the process of recovery results in a spirit of service; of the need to "give back" to others who are facing the same challenges one has overcome. For some individuals, this means founding or being of service to peer run services: services created by people who live with mental illness for people who live with mental illness. Services like drop in centers, warm lines, peer-led education and support programs are often foundational aspects of the recovery process.

Drop in centers, such as The Justice In Mental Health Organization (JIMHO) Drop-In Center in Lansing, MI
serve an important purpose in the lives of people with mental illness, offering companionship and activities that serve as growth opportunities and learning experiences. The National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse has written about the benefits of drop in centers in the "Technical Assistance Guide: Consumer Run Drop-in Centers."

Warm lines are telephone services staffed by people with psychiatric disabilities who offer phone support to their peers. Connecticut, for example, has a network of warm lines
. Warm lines are not crisis lines; they are another mechanism through which people who live with mental illness may give and receive help from their own, authentic, experiences.

Peer-led education comes in a number of forms. Mary Ellen Copeland's WRAP (Wellness Action Recovery Plan) program is one example of an effective peer education program. Mary Ellen has many interesting articles at on her Mental Health Recovery website. NAMI's Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course is another example of a peer-led education program.

Mutual support for people with psychiatric disabilities is often the cornerstone of wellness management. NAMI's NAMI-C.A.R.E. Mutual Support is one example of a peer-led mutual support group. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offers support groups throughout the United States, as does the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation . Schizophrenics Anonymous offers mutual support, and there are many, many online support forums, and chat groups including our own discussion groups (free registration is required to access the communities).