Josh suffers from anxiety and depression, but his lived experience with mental illness gives him the tools and resources to help others who also have mental illnesses.
He began as someone who used mental health services, but soon learned that helping others with mental illness is exactly what he wanted to pursue as a means of a career. Josh is currently a peer specialist for Health Solutions, a community health center in southern Colorado, and works in their Recovery Solutions department.
As a peer specialist, Josh, who has been in this position since July 2016, helps those with mental illnesses. He described Recovery Solutions as “a place where people (with mental illness) can go to fit in.” Josh expressed that you can claim to fully understand mental illness, but you can’t really understand it unless you’ve experienced one.
Josh was inspired to become a peer specialist when one helped him after he had a breakdown at his previous job, stating, “If I hadn’t met a peer specialist that day, I probably wouldn’t be here.”
If someone is struggling with a mental health problem, Josh stated that you could become their first support system by telling them “Let me know how I can support you,” “I believe you,” or “It’s real, but you will get through this.” He claims that these are the three most important phrases he has come across in the mental health field and has told himself those same phrases before.
When Josh explained what kindness meant to him, he said, “Kindness is an interaction where everyone involved walks away feeling better than they did before.”
Although Josh doesn’t think he’s very brave, he is courageous in speaking openly and honestly about his mental health story. In that respect, he seems to have mastered the art of bravery without even knowing it.
Josh believes that he is making an impact in his community by serving as a reminder that someone with mental illness can have a steady job, car, and house, and still show symptoms of their mental illness. He wants to continue to be an example of someone who shows symptoms of mental illness but can still contribute to society and lead a fulfilling and happy life.
If the reader of this story is inspired to become a kinder and braver person by Josh’s story, then he has some advice for you: “Forget the golden rule, or the platinum rule, treat others how THEY want to be treated.”
Josh is convinced that empathy is key to becoming a kind person, and being a kind person can lead to personal happiness in the long run. When asked what inspired him to get treatment after his breakdown, Josh relayed it was from seeing popular actors publicly work through their own mental health challenges. It was the fact that Tony Soprano from the TV series “The Sopranos,” had a breakdown and then went on to be in therapy the rest of the show. (Spoiler alert!) Along with that, he knew that Carrie Fisher (the actress that depicted Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies) was working through her mental illness and was sharing her story. The de-stigmatization of discussing mental health through media and culture may have inspired Josh to get the help he needed.
Maybe society can be kinder to those struggling with mental illness by creating a culture that advocates for prioritizing mental health instead of stigmatizing anyone who has an issue. At the very least, as a society, we can ask people struggling with their mental health, “How can I support you?” Josh said it best, “It takes a while to learn how to human.”
If you or somebody you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, please visit The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential support, at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/, or call 1-800-273-8255 for more information.