For decades, people living with mental health challenges have been gathering together to offer each other mutual support. We may meet in a living room, a coffee shop, at an annual creative arts performance or a dedicated location with daily activities and a staff.
Lives are changed by having a safe space to come and be understood when friends, family and employers may not get it. We encourage each other to develop skills for living well.
Today, peer-run programs are also an Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) when they follow certain standards. A major study showed peer-run programs help people in recovery and can reduce their use of hospital, crisis, and other expensive services. Learn more about peer-run programs as a proven complement to the traditional mental health system.
There are more than 20 independent peer-run mental health programs in Virginia, of which VOCAL is one. Browse our directory of peer-run programs in Virginia. National Empowerment Center has a list of Peer-Run respites in the United States as well as a list of the statewide consumer networks. Peers for Progress has an extensive directory of peer health programs around the world.
The history of how peer-run programs started tells a lot about the unique values of our movement. Watch Gayle Bluebird and Sally Zinman share peer history on YouTube or read more about the movement here.
By definition, at least a majority of the decision makers at peer-run programs are people with lived experience of mental health challenges. That means at least 51% of the voting Board of Directors identify as peers.
This independent governance structure is core to healthy and effective peer-run programs because it mirrors recovery values of choice, self-direction, empowerment and personal responsibility.
To learn more about peer-run programs in Virginia, or for training and support to start or strengthen a program in your area, contact the VOCAL office: 804.343.1777.