New pilot program at El Camino Hospital offers peer support for mental illness – by Kevin Forestieri
People hospitalized for a mental illness have a long road ahead of them, with plenty of pitfalls to sidestep as they try to re-integrate themselves back into society. But they don’t have to go it alone.The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Santa Clara County is kicking off a program this year called Peers on Discharge, which pairs up a person hospitalized for a mental illness such as clinical depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with someone with the same disorder who has been discharged and is farther along on the path to recovery…
Cindy McCalmont, a NAMI program supervisor, said the months-long peer program will have mentors meet with patients in the hospital three times a week — once in person and twice by phone — to support them through the recovery and reintegration process.
The patients continue to have one-on-one support meetings well after being discharged from the hospital; in some cases, these sessions may be even more important than the meetings in the hospital.
“There can be so many different issues that someone coming out of the hospital could be dealing with,” McCalmont said. “It could be housing or employment issues; they may be trying to apply for disability. That peer, having been through those things, can break down a monumental task into manageable steps.”