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Don't Overlook My Peers

Philippians 2:3-4 New King James Version (NKJV) 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

My heart goes out peers suffering with mental illness, and to their supporters who are affected. Many of my peers suffer in silence, because of stigma or negative perceptions. Before I accepted treatment me and my family were a mess. I could not function to the extent that I did not know who the president was at the time. The voices interrupted my conversations and made it difficult for me to stay engaged. Years later I can still recall those uncomfortable, anxious, frightening moments when my mind was in limbo.

My advice to peers who've found a treatment plan that works for them is to share their experience with others. The lived experience is valuable. Sharing my experiences with schizophrenia is therapeutic, and can be for others too. I started sharing my experiences by blogging anonymously. And gradually over time, and with a better understanding of my illness and others I disclosed my identity.

I would not describe my experiences as easy or quick, but it was worth the process to get to where I am today in my recovery and life. Peers living with mental illness, I encourage you to choose treatment, whatever that looks like to you and practice it wholeheartedly. And to those who are managing, don't overlook our peers who are struggling, but help them by sharing your coping skills and motivation.

To my peers' supporters, don't neglect your own mental health and self-care responsibilities. I suggest you join a support group or online chat network for family members, caregivers, and supporters. This connection will help you find answers on how to cope and overcome situations.

Stay encouraged. Strive for mental wellness, it is your livelihood. And never, ever, give up hope.

-Ashley Smith

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