Asked to describe the importance of her role as a peer support worker at ACCESS Open Minds, Nakita Dool explains: “a clinical education can only take you so far; individuals with lived experience can relate to and support a person on a deeper level.”
Nakita is often one of the first points of contact for the young adults that come to the ACCESS clinic hoping they can find support. Her job is to enable individuals to identify goals. Then she acts as guide while they work toward them, with her personal experience helping her do her work from a place of understanding.
“Peer support is still a new concept within the health care system, but everyone has experienced personal peer support at one point in their life,” says Nakita.
When you call a friend for advice when you’re in a tricky situation? That’s peer support. When your mother helps you navigate your first job contract? That’s peer support. You’ve been there. Having a person beside you who’s been in your shoes is a massive relief. In mental health care, it’s a game changer.
“I feel that having the opportunity to connect with clients on a more personal level has opened up clients to feel more comfortable to come back, reconnect, and share their struggles,” says Nakita.
Unlike traditional care, clients don’t have any clinical obligations to meet. ACCESS is come as you are. “Negative choices and behaviors don’t define a person. Anyone can become an addict or struggle with mental health, but everyone can cope and overcome it as well.”
There are still challenges, of course: working within a structured system that still has many barriers to overcome—wait times being the most significant—can sometimes interfere with Nakita’s ability to maintain a connection. Problem-solving in these situations can be difficult, but it’s what makes her such a valuable part of the ACCESS team.
“I wish people could see the value in simple human interactions. A listening ear can be more helpful than a solution at some points. There is a special feeling one gets when they feel they are not only heard but understood as well.”
Next up for Nakita: she’ll be at the Foundation’s annual breakfast on March 14 sharing her story and her hope for the future. Nakita’s journey, despite its hardships, has given her the opportunity to learn more about the mental health care system and it is with these insights that she can look toward the future and ask for better for her own kids.
We’re all sold out, but stay tuned in late March for a recap. If you didn’t manage to buy a ticket but still want to contribute, please consider donating to help us fund mental health in schools.
Check out Nakita’s Better Future in Mind and submit one of your own.
Meet Peter Silverstone, who will be speaking alongside Nakita at the breakfast.
Learn more about Peer Support, with Pam Spurvey.