Bronwen Sims says her job as a CAMH peer support worker keeps her healthy. “I still have my up and down days, but having the regularity of the job and the consistency and routine is something that helps.” Living with bipolar disorder, Bronwen works at Spectrum outpatient clinic for people living in the community with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. It was a combination of a CAMH outpatient women’s group, being a member of Houselinks employment program and Voices from the Street, a speaker’s bureau for people with mental illness, which helped with her treatment and introduced her to the peer support worker job. With a new business outfit to wear to her interview from Suits Me Fine, a CAMH boutique that provides clothing to clients, Bronwen was able to land the job and create a stable life for herself.
Not only does working as a peer support worker keep her well, it gives her a sense of pride. She admits that if she had a peer support worker as she was working towards getting healthy, her recovery could have been quicker. Having someone to relate to is important. “When I share with clients, I share what is relevant and useful at the time,” Bronwen says. “Every time I use my experience it’s always in the context of is this going to help the person.”
The biggest issue facing the clients that Bronwen works with is housing accessibility, which is also something she struggled with. Now living in her own apartment with limited assistance, she understands the importance of stable housing and works to help others in that area. “It’s hard for people to recover if they don’t have the stability of a home base, an income, a job, a friend, many things other people take for granted can really boost ones recovery.”
Bronwen says she does what she can with one client at a time, taking pride in the fact that she’s helping people everyday she comes to work. “Helping someone else equally helps me in the end. It helps my mental health.”
Credit: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health