Three Sundays ago, Natasha and I had our first SHARE planning meeting. We tucked ourselves in a corner window seat at Prado Cafe on Commercial; the window panes were dressed in a veil of condensation and rain was falling heavily. We each got drinks and then delved into passionate discussion with the accompaniment of the sweet smell of roast coffee and low chatter of other customers in the background.
We decided to start with tertiary support, as that is a good starting point and can build a good foundation for future expansion to more generalized support and education. Natasha encouraged us to brainstorm what sorts of things people would critisize us about and to make sure that we are protecting ourselves while trying our best to provide support for others. One thing is that we must make it clear that we are peers, and are simply providing a space for people who have used similar negative coping mechanisms to find support, and that we are not an alternative to treatment. It would be essential to have a set guideline for meetings in order to maintain an environment that is safe and inclusive for everyone. In addition of being mindful of the guidelines, Natasha and I as facilitators would need to be cognizant of our own capabilities and the scope of SHARE meetings and have a list of resources that we could refer to in the case that an attendee may benefit more from professional support. On this topic, we considered the need for our facilitators to have some sort of structured training. It could either be that we would take part in pre-existing mental health related training (eg. PeerNet, QPR, MHFA etc.), or we could develop a training/workshop ourselves that is more specific to the peers that we would be working with.
For naming, we agreed that SHARE is perfect. The acronym stands for Self Harm Anonymous Recovery and Empowerment, which says exactly what we are: an organization that provides anonymous, confidential peer support for people seeking recovery from self harm, by empowering everyone through relating to one another and sharing our own experiences. Before parting ways and going with the rest of our days, we came up with a few actions items: come up with group guidelines, logo ideas, and booking the room for SHARE meetings.
Only a couple weeks after our meeting, I stumbled upon this article, which at first made me feel really upset, but I realized briefly after my emotional frustration, that this is exactly why I am doing what I am doing, and the more reason for SHARE meetings to exist, to change the this heartbreaking tide.
We’ve talked about homosexuality, we’ve talked about addictions and substance abuse, we’ve talked about mental illness and its fatal consequences. Why do we keep brushing the topic of self-harm under the rug? It’s time to have this conversation… yesterday.