National Alliance on Mental Illness
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July 7, 2006
Compeer: Making Friends, Changing Lives
By Ingeborg Greenwood, Compeer Program Director, Compeer of San Mateo County, Inc.
Have you ever wished you could do something for someone who is homeless or someone living with a mental illness? Would you be willing to spend four hours monthly if that meant making a real difference? A friend can make the difference in the life of a person struggling for mental wellness.
The Compeer Program offers us a wonderful model to do just that. Compeer’s mission is to alleviate the loneliness and isolation that many individuals dealing with mental illness often experience.
A ‘compeer’, as defined in the dictionary, is a peer, a friend, a companion of equal standing. Compeer Programs nationwide recruit volunteers, screen, train, and
Compeer International is based in
Compeer received numerous national awards for its innovative work. Find out more on its national Web site. One of the links will tell you how to start a new affiliate. Compeer programs are flexible and adjustable to various community needs. Such diverse associations as Mental Health Associations,
My years of teaching the Family-to-Family Course had motivated me to branch out to do more. I saw my son's loneliness duplicated many times over in other families. That was a need the mental health professionals could not be expected to deal with.
In 2001, I found a report in California NAMI’s publication called “Faith-in-Action NAMI Compeer Program in
Around the same time, Dr. Gunnar Christianson’s NAMI FaithNet was growing here in
NAMI members have been my most enthusiastic
NAMI’s Family-to-Family graduates make wonderful Compeer volunteers: they are experienced (through the school of hard knocks), already understand the medical model (some of it, anyway), have learned new communication skills (or at least heard about it), and had their hearts broken (not just during empathy skill training).
We hopefully learned that we cannot do all desirable things for our own family members. But, when we no longer live in constant crisis we can become a
Consumers that have recovered a measure of wellness probably make the best volunteers. The
However, Compeer volunteers do not have to be already trained. Anyone who is someone’s friend, or has friends he depends on, already knows what Compeer is all about.
It may sound simplistic, but it is that simple. If you care, you qualify. Did Jesus not model for us one-on-one connectivity? Let us be His hands, feet, and heart and bear each others burden, so we don’t have to say “I did not know you Lord, when you were in need….”
I thank Gunnar and NAMI FaithNet for allowing me to share my vision. For those, who want more information, here is the contact information:
Compeer of San Mateo County, Inc.