Celebrating Individuality: Using Lived Experience to Support Others
Kristine Ducote Helps Teach Coping Skills Through RMHS Peer Bridger Program
Kristine Ducote works with peers in the RMHS Community Transitions Department programs, serving those struggling with mental health and/or substance use disorders by walking alongside them in their recovery.
Imagine feeling vulnerable, scared and not knowing who to trust. For many people being supported by the Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) Community Transitions Department programs, these are the feelings they’re experiencing when they meet their new support system of staff from RMHS. Building trust can be a difficult first step toward receiving the care they need.
However, someone like Kristine Ducote can ease the process and develop a strong relationship more quickly, because she has recovered from her own mental illness. Kristine is a peer bridger.
“I tell peers that I’m someone with lived experience, that I’m there to walk alongside them during their recovery,” Kristine explained. “Some of them have completely lit up when I’ve told them that.”
Peer Bridger Services are a part of the RMHS Community Transitions Department and can serve peers in the department’s two programs: Momentum and the Transition Specialist Program. The programs provide personalized case management and services for people transitioning from a mental health institute, psychiatric hospital and/or substance use treatment facility to a community setting.
Years ago, Kristine struggled with bipolar disorder and depression that used to take a toll on her daily life. It was so disruptive that she had to learn to properly read and write again during her recovery. Now, she helps others develop their own coping skills through RMHS Peer Bridger Services.
“When I was really, really sick, I was in the hospital more than I was out of it,” Kristine said. “I was hoping something would fall out of the sky and make things better, and it took me a long time to realize I had to do it. I started to see I have control.”
One of the ways Kristine coped was through martial arts. She worked hard to earn two third-degree black belts and had her own martial arts school with her husband. It helped boost her confidence because she had achieved something she never thought was possible.
Today, Kristine works closely with peers to help them create goals for themselves and also serves as a support for care managers and transition specialists, who are the RMHS staff that manage peers’ cases. These professionals help to simplify access to services and funding for peers so they can receive the individualized care they need for a stable transition into community living.
Peer bridgers are a unique support that improves the entire transition process by helping peers engage with their therapies and care. Seeing someone who has gone through the recovery process provides hope that others can too.
“Peers are really appreciative of talking to someone who’s been there,” Kristine explained.
Learn more about the RMHS Community Transitions Department programs at www.rmhumanservices.org/bh.