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September 22, 2011 Volume 2, Issue 35
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please visit http://www.dsgonline.com/rtp/resources.html.

Peer Employment Training: Graduation Day
by Terrence J-R Smithers
"As a boy, I always wanted to help people. When my journey took me other places and eventually repeated incarceration, I knew my dream was gone forever. Bringing me this program has given me the hope and possibility that I can be that man I always wanted to be. Thank you for returning me to me." —Anonymous

This was one of the many moving and uplifting statements from Peer Employment Training (PET) graduates at a state correctional institution. In my eyes, the graduation was as beautiful and meaningful as it could be. The men, though brief in their speeches, shared wonderful messages of "Hope, Choice, and Empowerment," the Pathways to Recovery they had learned over the past 2 weeks. Each one talked about finding a new path that hadn't been apparent before—a path that offered the means to finally make the life change he wanted but thought too late or impossible. They also shared thoughts about the opportunity and responsibility to offer this support so others could find their personal journeys.

"Two weeks ago, when they gave me the Going Live paper, it asked me about my strengths," said a PET graduate. "I left it blank. I had no idea what it was talking about or how to answer that. I had never in my life thought about [myself] and strengths in the same sentence. Now I know I am creative and compassionate, with intelligence, humor, and good communication skills."

Staff members who attended were also involved and moved by the ceremony and all it represented. The superintendent—it turns out—can be a very witty man, and he described the weeks and days leading up to implementation of PET—how there was much trepidation about it working out, and whether it was even possible in the prison. "Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., I am opening boxes of materials and wondering are we crazy?" he mused.

Today, he shared his congratulations with the men for stepping up in such a tremendous way and making the program a success. "We didn't think you would all finish, let alone with such great grades and success," he said. "Congratulations on such a great job." It was wonderful to hear him express this kind of message, as well as his hopes for ongoing success and expectations for PET working effectively at many other correctional facilities.

Did I mention that three graduates shared some emotion and a few tears, and that it was absolutely okay with everyone, including them?

Two prison officials said the program was a complete success and that the sincerity in the men was remarkable:

"You can see it in their eyes, you know. They have many classes and say things about them and that sort of thing, but the way they spoke today is completely different. There is a sincerity I have never seen."

Terrence Smithers is a peer employment trainer at Recovery Innovations.

The RTP Resource Center Announces
Its Final Webinar in a Four-Step Series:
Step 4 in the Recovery-Oriented Care Continuum:
Thursday, October 6, 2011

3–4:30 p.m. ET

In the final Webinar of a series on the continuum of recovery-oriented care, we focus on a relatively new but important concept: an individual's "graduation" from formal services, which often involves a transition to less formal, community-based supports.

At one time, the mental health field believed most people would not recover from serious mental illness. Their lifelong dependency on formal treatment was expected, as was their chronic and deteriorating course. People did recover (in large numbers), though their exit from care was unplanned, unpredictable, and often unaddressed at the system level.

As a result, routine outpatient services typically have no-show rates around 50 percent, and the average age of individuals receiving publicly funded mental health services is around 40. People have "voted with their feet" and left care despite our best efforts. But we now know one of the reasons for this exodus: many individuals learn to manage their condition and want to return to their lives.

If people can recover from or learn to cope with serious mental illnesses, how can mental health professionals plan for this transition from the very beginning of treatment? During the Webinar, this question will be addressed by three gifted speakers: Wes Sowers, M.D., a psychiatrist and Director of the Center for Public Service Psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic; Lauren Spiro, Director of the National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery; and Antonio Lambert, a certified peer specialist and RTP Specialist for the National Association of Peer Specialists. Dr. Sowers will broach the issue as a psychiatrist who finds it gratifying to accompany people on their recovery journeys and assist them in healing and reclaiming full and meaningful lives beyond the boundaries of the mental health system. Ms. Spiro and Mr. Lambert will describe personal recovery experiences, as well as their work in facilitating the recovery of others, identifying resources and supports they believe are instrumental in promoting recovery. These include elements of formal treatment, such as healing relationships and medications, and spirituality, friends, and "giving back" by helping others.

The Webinar will discuss options and alternatives for individuals who wish to move on from formal services and—more importantly—how we can help ensure that those who have optimally benefited from treatment have a meaningful life to return to. As with all RTP Webinars, participants will be encouraged to call in or submit questions and comments for presenters to answer at the end of the session.

To Register

Please share this announcement with friends and colleagues who may be interested in learning more about recovery-oriented practice in behavioral health services. For more information on SAMHSA's Recovery to Practice project, please contact the RTP Technical Assistance Center at recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com or 877.584.8535.

Action Summit Addresses Suicide in Tribal Communities
August 1–4, 2011, marked the first Action Summit for Suicide Prevention, an unprecedented collaboration among Federal agencies to address suicide and substance abuse prevention in Native American communities.

Hosted by the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and SAMHSA, the summit provided a unique opportunity for prevention leaders throughout the U.S. to share current research and promising practices for suicide and substance abuse prevention, intervention, and aftercare. Participants and presenters included nationally recognized speakers, behavioral health providers, tribal leaders, law enforcement officers, first responders, and school personnel. The event emphasized the importance of collaboration between tribal, Federal, State, and community leaders, and programs and resources for advancing the behavioral health of American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

During the summit, SAMHSA's Center for the Application of Prevention Technologies hosted a presentation on epidemiological data use to inform prevention planning, in partnership with the State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroups contract and representatives from the Montana Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council and Tohono O'odham. Specifically, the panel explored
  • Applying SAMHSA's Strategic Prevention Framework to suicide prevention efforts
  • Methods for identifying, collecting, and analyzing relevant data to inform suicide prevention in tribal communities
  • Strategies for building the capacity (i.e., resources and readiness) of Tribes to address substance abuse and suicide prevention
To learn more about the Action Summit for Suicide Prevention, please visit

For information about other SAMHSA activities related to suicide prevention, see

What a Difference a Friend Makes
SAMHSA's Mental Health Campaign for Mental Health Recovery aims to encourage, educate, and inspire people between the ages of 18 and 25 to support friends who are experiencing mental health problems. The prevalence of serious mental health conditions in this age group is almost twice that of the general population, yet young people have the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviors. With greater social acceptance and the right support and services early on, this group has the potential to minimize future disability.

Because recovery is more likely in a society of acceptance, this initiative is meant to inspire young people to serve as the mental health vanguard, motivating a societal shift toward acceptance and diminishing negative attitudes about mental illness. Mental health recovery is a journey of healing and transformation that enables people to live meaningful lives in the community while striving to achieve their full potential.

Our work is important. Discrimination and stigma have made it harder and harder for people with mental illness to keep a job, secure a home, get health insurance, and find treatment. This site is designed for people living with mental illness—and their friends. You'll find tools that support the recovery process, information on different types of mental illness, and real-life stories about support and recovery that illustrate how friends can make all the difference.

Please visit http://www.whatadifference.samhsa.gov

The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From
Recovery-Oriented Practitioners!
We invite practitioners to submit personal stories that describe how they became involved in recovery-
oriented work and how it has changed the way they practice.
The RTP Resource Center Wants to Hear From You, Too!
We invite you to submit personal stories that describe recovery experiences. To submit stories or other recovery resources, please contact Stephanie Bernstein, MSW, at 877.584.8535,
or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

We welcome your views, comments, suggestions, and inquiries.
For more information on this topic or any other recovery topics,
please contact the RTP Resource Center at
877.584.8535, or email recoverytopractice@dsgonline.com.

The views, opinions, and content of this Weekly Highlight are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect
the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.