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Persona a Persona Curso de Recuperacion de NAMI Pilot Training

"Apurate, Apurate", my co-worker Ana said to me in Spanish, as I frantically put Peer-to-Peer Mentor Manuals together.  We had approximately 45 minutes to finish before people would be walking into one of the meeting rooms of the Hilton Hotel.   My stomach was tied in knots; my hands were clammy from the nervousness, my heart was ready to explode.  I had been preparing for this moment for several months and it was finally here.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I kissed my cross necklace and prayed that everything go well for the next 4 days….

The NAMI Education, Training, and Support Center, recently launched the Spanish Language Peer-to-Peer Mentor Training on September 7-10, 2006 in St. Louis, Missouri, the first ever in the United States As a coordinator of the training and a bi-racial individual, it was an honor to be part of such a historic moment for NAMI Consumer Education Programs, while NAMI National increases their efforts to address the mental health issues of ethnical and racial minorities.  Various NAMI affiliates participated in this endeavor; NAMI NYC-Metro, NAMI Santa Clara, NAMI San Diego, and NAMI Southern Arizona.  Each affiliate selected a team of three individuals living with a mental illness who were fluent in both the English and Spanish language to be trained as Peer-to-Peer Mentors.  Each team consisted of individuals from diverse backgrounds, ages, and professions; Mexican American, Dominican, Venezuelan, 2nd generation Americans, and even individuals who did not have a Hispanic background, but were heavily immersed in the culture throughout their lives.  Throughout the four intense days of training, I observed the gradual transformation of each participant and the closeness and energy the group created as they experienced each week of the Peer-to-Peer curriculum; emphasizing the important components on how to lead group discussions and exercises.

Cultural elements and mental health issues were significantly highlighted throughout the training; the importance of the family role within recovery, spirituality, individual empowerment, and the continued stigma surrounding mental illness in the Spanish speaking communities.  These teams were efficiently prepared to launch this recovery program.   

During this week, the NAMI Education, Training and Peer Support Center also made it possible to film a Spanish Language Outreach Video for the Peer-to-Peer program.  Many of these individuals made time to stay an extra day and participate in an elaborate interview process.  The responses to the various interview questions emphasized the “lived experience” of mental illness and the elements of recovery which are incorporated into the curriculum.      

The experience of filming a video was invaluable for me, in that although I am not a consumer, I felt I was helping people with similar backgrounds as myself.  I also had the opportunity to partake in the editing and production of the video, where I traveled to Pittsburgh, reviewed footage, and learned a tremendous amount about the art of production.   On one occasion, I was also given the honor to interview two Hispanic renowned doctors in the field of Psychiatry.           

The NAMI Peer-to-Peer Recovery Education Course is a program that has been anxiously awaited and needed by the Spanish speaking community.  This program will not only assist Spanish speaking consumers to maintain wellness, but assist the Spanish speaking community as a whole to gain knowledge, awareness, and eradicate the stigma regarding mental illness.  As Hispanics and other communities continue to grow throughout the United States, tailoring community based health care services and programs are of the utmost importance.