The Power of SCI Peer Support and Finding a Great Group Near You
It's human nature to want to be around people like you, which is one of the cornerstones of why peer support works. When you suddenly become disabled it can be jarring, as you have a brand new way of viewing yourself competing with your old vision, and not only is it depressing, it's confusing. All of this screams for help, and a therapist is not always the right answer.
The power of SCI peer support is sometimes the answer instead. It can be so therapeutic that many people with spinal cord injuries say it was exactly the thing they needed, even though they did know they needed it at first. The power it can have on the psyche is incredibly real, as many people with spinal cord injuries can attest to.
Personally, it completely changed my life as a quadriplegic. When I was newly injured, they had me visit a woman who was also a quadriplegic and had been paralyzed since being a teenager. She lived on her own, and I was invited to visit her at her house to see how she lived. Unfortunately, since we were so far apart in age it really wasn't effective peer support for me.
It wasn't until I was 18, and met people with paralysis my own age who are much more used to being paralyzed, that I finally had the peer support my soul was craving unbeknownst to me. Even though they weren’t technically peer support mentors, that is exactly what they were to me. I finally met these important people when I was living at the current center, a place for people with spinal cord injuries to learn how to live independently.
They too were paralyzed from whatever accident that befell them but they were much more confident than I was. Just by hanging around them, I learned that silent confidence, for example, is still very much possible when you use a wheelchair. It was so exciting to meet people like this and to know that such fun, crazy lifestyles were still possible even if you were paralyzed. These people were just cool.
They had boyfriends or girlfriends, they had fun and went out, some of them drove too. It was, generally speaking, the peer mentoring I missed in high school. Unfortunately, not everyone with a spinal cord injury has this enlightening experience. Many people live in rural areas, where they never see anyone else with a spinal cord injury, and some people even purposefully avoid other people in wheelchairs as to not make their appearance any more obvious as someone with a disability. It is quite sad, but it is something I have heard many people with paralysis say.
Overwhelmingly, I've also heard that once these “loners” finally meet someone with a spinal cord injury who is like them, it is life changing. Once again, the power of peer support comes through strong. It's essential to find peer support from someone who is as close to you in many aspects as possible:
- personality, etc.
We know too that bumping into the perfect peer mentor is nearly impossible. Instead, reach out to find an SCI peer mentor or support group that works for you.
One of the best places to find peer support in the US if you have a spinal cord injury is through our Spinal Cord Injury Support Group Map. We have many support groups listed state by state, and chances are, you'll find someone in your state at the very least in one of them. If you know of additional support groups that you'd like listed on our map, please let us know. Another great place to look for a SCI peer support group is on Facebook or on the United Spinal Association's database of support groups.
Here are a couple Facebook SCI peer support groups we recommend:
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