Supporting a Peer Support Model: An Important Cause
In his 15 years as Professor and Head of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Macaran Baird championed integrating behavioral medicine with clinical care. And in a field that has been questioned for overprescribing the latest pill to be dropped off by a pharmaceutical representative, his views on the subject are unique.
“I’ve always talked with residents about the need to consider alternatives to medication,” Baird says. “That doesn’t mean medication can’t help. But I think there’s an overreliance on medication and an underutilization of peer support and other types of talk therapy.”
That’s where the Face It Foundation comes into play. Baird serves on the group’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. In this role he plays an integral part in crafting and overseeing the foundation’s peer support programs.
One aspect of the Face It approach that Baird finds especially helpful is its reliance on group peer support over a traditional one-on-one model with a mental health practitioner.
“Understanding someone’s story is key to helping them, and sometimes a professional might have a harder time listening to a person’s story without jumping in with helpful hints, which aren’t always all that helpful,” Baird says. “Whereas a peer might be the more appropriate person to listen without judgment as they’re telling their story.”
He also appreciates that Face It fills an important need for a group that often gets little support. Many men face an uphill battle in their struggle due to a combination of their upbringing, societal expectations, or a general stigma surrounding mental health struggles.
“Men typically are less experienced compared to women and have a harder time reaching out for help,” Baird says. “When they’re talking to peers rather than professionals, they often don’t feel that embarrassment or shame.”
When he met Face It cofounder Mark Meier and heard the organization’s story, he was convinced.
“I was very encouraged by what they were doing,” Baird says. “I believe in their general model of peer support with professional guidance.”