Classes for People Living with Mental Health Conditions Taught by Peers

In the words of one of the first Santa Barbara participants in a free, new course for people experiencing mental health challenges, “Now I realize that my illness is real, but not my fault. I am in recovery at last!”

Offered by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Southern Santa Barbara County and hosted by the Mental Wellness Center, “Peer to Peer” classes are uniquely taught by specially trained and certified individuals who themselves live with mental health conditions and who have found their own path toward recovery and wellness. Classes help participants better understand mental health conditions, build stronger relationships with others, cope more effectively with their conditions, and map out their own personalized plan for recovery.

“We’re pleased to be offering this amazing and life-changing class,” said George Kaufmann, NAMI Southern Santa Barbara County President. “The course has helped thousands of individuals nationwide understand that, while recovery may not always equate with cure for people living with mental health disorders, everyone has strengths and abilities and can find a path toward a life they want to lead.”

NAMI is the largest national, non-profit organization offering support, education and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental health conditions.

Nick Papageorge, MWC Fellowship Club/Recovery Learning Center Manager, said Peer to Peer teaches valuable tools for recovery, including breathing/relaxation exercises, creating vision statements, and new ways to evaluate and navigate relationships.

“Identified peers lead the class and the shared experience is powerful, said Papageorge. “We share our stories. The similarities among them show both instructors and participants how impactful common experiences can be. It proves that we are NOT alone. Bonds form between us all. Comfort comes from commonality and normalization.”

This year, 16 individuals have already participated locally in Peer to Peer, one noting, “I can now reach out to others better.” Another student said the class “opened my awareness to see that people living with mental illness can function well and accomplish goals.”

The next local offering of the class is now enrolling and will begin in mid-August at the Mental Wellness Center, NAMI’s host agency in Santa Barbara. Advanced registration is required. Call 805-884-8440 ext. 3206 to register or for more information.

About the Mental Wellness Center: Since 1947, the Mental Wellness Center has continuously focused on the needs of those impacted by mental illness. Providing direct services, education and support, we are dedicated to meeting the immediate and future needs of our youth, adults, families, and the greater community. Each year, the Mental Wellness Center works with hundreds of individuals and families to improve and maintain mental wellness in Santa Barbara.


About NAMI Southern Santa Barbara County: NAMI Southern California County began in 1982 as an affiliate of NAMI California and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  The national organization was founded in 1979, beginning with the grass-roots joining together of families across the nation who were dealing with severely ill family members and with insufficient public services for or understanding of mental illness.  Now NAMI is the leading voice in the nation on mental illness, an association of hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations and volunteers who work in communities to raise awareness and provide support and education that was not previously available to those in need.

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