Female Peer Specialists Paid Less than Males, Study Finds

Malia Fontecchio, MSW
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In a recent national study by The College for Behavioral Health Leadership (2016), female peer specialists made an average of $2 less than their male counterparts at $14.70 per hour compared to $16.76, respectively. This gender pay gap varies by region. The largest gender pay gap is in the middle of the country in the region including Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri where female peer support specialists are paid $4.14 per hour less than their male counterparts. The second worst offender is in the Southwest region, which includes California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii where female peer specialists are paid $3.15 less an hour compared to their male counterparts. And the best place for women and gender equality? New York, where the gender pay gap is the smallest, and in fact, female peer specialists make $0.39 more than their male counterparts.

For those of us who don’t live in New York, the gender pay gap is something that affects our lives whether or not we realize it. The gender pay gap is especially disheartening in 2016 in the peer movement, a field whose values are purported to include transparency, mutuality, respect, and shared power (International Association of Peer Supporters 2014). So what does the $2 an hour difference look like? “Based on these figures and assuming full-time employment, the total annual salary differential for men would be $4,284 higher than their female counterparts,” the study revealed (The College for Behavioral Health Leadership 2016). Over the span of a 45-year career, that’s a total of $192,780 in lost wages because of gender discrimination.

There are individuals who believe the gender pay gap is a myth. Consider the Yale research study where identical resumes were given to Science professors with the one difference being the applicant’s gender as was signified by the name John or Jennifer. The professors decided to pay the male applicant $4,000 more per year on average than the female applicant with the same exact qualifications and resume. Notice that this extra $4,000 male bonus is roughly the same amount as the $4,284 extra that mental health agencies are paying their male peer specialists compared to female peer specialists.

Earlier this month, April 12, 2016, was Equal Pay Day (National Committee on Pay Equity [NCPE]). “This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year” according to NCPE. But the gender pay gap is not solely a female issue. With more women graduating college (Feeney, N., 2015) and more women than ever being the family breadwinner (Council of Economic Advisers Issue Brief, 2015), the income that a woman brings in has a larger effect on her family, her significant other, her children, and the family’s overall quality of life than ever before. Any household income that includes a female earner is negatively impacted by the gender wage gap in less money for food, clothing, debt, rent, college, retirement, health costs, etc.

As the old adage goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The peer specialist field has a problem, it needs to realize and identify the gender pay gap issue before it can come to a solution. We need to spread awareness about the gender pay gap. Tell your coworkers, colleagues, and management about the recent study about the gender pay gap in the peer specialist field. Email the study out, insert it in coworkers’ mailboxes, pin it up on bulletin boards, and mention it in meetings. Another step, suggested by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research is to advocate for pay transparency (2010). Their study found that in workplaces that have pay transparency, there is more pay equality (2010). As President Obama said, “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it” (2014). Pay transparency can happen on an organizational level with transparency of salaries and/or salary ranges and it can happen among employees with transparency of compensation. Many companies discourage employees from discussing their compensation, but these pay secrecy policies are illegal. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 states that employees have the right to engage in “concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” The National Labor Relations Board “has long held that these pay secrecy policies that many employers have in writing violate the National Labor Relations Act,” said New York University Professor Cynthia Estlund (according to National Public Radio, 2014).

Another step would be to urge the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to review The College for Behavioral Health Leadership findings and contact those agencies that have been found to be discriminating against their female Peer Support Specialists and work with these agencies to rectify this injustice. There are many ways to address the gender wage gap and this is in no way a comprehensive list of actions, but rather a few steps to get us going in the right direction and thinking about solutions. With a concerted effort, we can ensure pay equity for peer support specialists.

 * * * * *

Resources:

  1. Council of Economic Advisers Issue Brief (2015).
  2. Daniels, A.S., Ashenden, P., Goodale, L., Stevens, T. (2016). National Survey of Compensation Among Peer Support Specialists. The College for Behavioral Health Leadership.
  3. Feeney, N. (2015). Women Are Now More Likely to Have College Degree Than MenTime.
  4. Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2010). Pay Secrecy and Paycheck Fairness: New Data Shows Pay Transparency Needed.
  5. International Association of Peer Supporters (2014).
  6. Midura, Margaretta (2013). John Vs. Jennifer: A Battle of the Sexes.
  7. National Committee on Pay Equity
  8. National Public Radio, All Things Considered (2014). ‘Pay Secrecy’ Policies at Work: Often Illegal, and Misunderstood.

45 COMMENTS

  1. It’s hard to have much sympathy for those who expect to make money by propping up the psychiatric system in such a key way. Consider the implications of the word “peer” in this context. It demeans people and implies “consumer” support for psychiatric oppression.

    I guess in principle female crack dealers should also make the same as their male counterparts, but it’s not something I would spend much time worrying about.


    • It’s hard to have much sympathy for those who expect to make money by propping up the psychiatric system in such a key way. Consider the implications of the word “peer” in this context. It demeans people and implies “consumer” support for psychiatric oppression.

      I guess in principle female crack dealers should also make the same as their male counterparts, but it’s not something I would spend much time worrying about.

      AMEN Brother, you’ve said what I would not have dared to say.

      I guess I’m not the only one who would not last beyond 3 posts on Recovery Movement Forums.

      I guess too that with Mental Health issues there is no middle ground, you either accept it and the people with the letters after their names, or you oppose it as I do, and also demand that all conversations be eye level.

      Thank you oldhead!

      Nomadic
      http://freedomtoexpress.freeforums.org/index.php

        • What are Recovery Movement forums?

          I don’t want to list them as that would promote them. They tend to be inspired by 12-step groups, or built around ideas like the healing of childhood abuses, or sexual abuses.

          They have taken the Recovery Concept from drug addiction. I don’t support it at all, not even for drug addiction.

          And worse still, our County Mental Health dept professes that “Recovery is built into their treatment model”. And they have meetings with churches.

          I don’t support it because I don’t think the client needs any kind of Recovery from anything, because there never was anything wrong with them in the first place.

          Nomadic

          • I agree with this idea. Recovery presumes normality, then illness, then normality, and that is not how human emotional development and life problems work. Recovery is a word easily used to cover up the disease model.

    • I really want to weigh in on your comment , I don’t really have time to study this.

      But I did a little

      “Peer Support – is available as a step-down from more intensive waiver services such as Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) or Community Support Program (CSP), when an ACTor CSP level of care is no longer needed.”

      http://www.ct.gov/dmhas/lib/dmhas/oaswise/PeerSupport.pdf

      And this http://www.dbsalliance.org/pdfs/training/Peer-Specialist-Training-and-Certification-Programs-A-National-Overview%20UT%202013.pdf

      That looks scary but I don’t know enough about it. What exactly do they have peer support specialist do most of the time ?

      The mental health industry so dirty and corrupt so my first instinct is to agree its like Nazi Collaboration but I need more before I can say that.

      • I guess my resistance to say Nazi Collaboration is because I associate the idea of peer support with Alcoholics Anonymous and my belief that people who have had a condition are best at helping other people with it.

        I have also volunteered at a drug and alcohol treatment center that allowed me to tear bio-psychiatry into little bits wile talking to clients like I do on this website but it was a private place and the owner can’t deny reality and actually wants people to get better. In fact I think a doctor got fired with the help of some of stuff I had to say.

        Some people at AA get pissed when I bash psychiatry with truth so I do it more.

        I would still like to know more about how this peer support thing.

        • I’ve heard within the AA so many times that if you want to know about medication to go to a doctor. And that lay AA ‘doctors’ have advised members to stop taking medication and that the member has then killed themselves.

          This shows how much misinformation is out there; even with all the relevant publications available.

          • I heard that one in a share and at the table outside I explained what I learned here .

            Yet, the best available evidence shows that unmedicated patients with bipolar disorder do not have a higher risk of suicide…that active agents are most likely to be associated with a 2.22 times greater risk of suicidal acts than placebo http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1434505/

            I explained to this person in front of everyone that there was an ethical debate about giving people a placebo until they pointed out that people on placebo had less suicide risk !

            I have also said at meetings that if the AA big book was written today it would warn people to stay away from psychiatry.

            I do try to keep a lid on it and not insist on winning arguments but this one guy raised his hand and suggested everyone try “outside help” psychiatry and I couldn’t help myself from sharing how they almost killed me mistreated me followed by ripping the medical model to shreds.

            I think in AA people are politically correct about not bashing psychiatry but they don’t seem to care for it.

            This AA ‘doctor’ believes in informed consent , I never tell anyone not to take anything. If you WANT you take drugs that’s great but if you tell me that broken brain thing I will debunk it.

            As I was looking for grammar mistakes I thought of that , sorry for the word but douchebag who thought he owned that meeting and tried to shut me down with that you are not a doctor thing. I would suggest anyone thinking about going to AA or currently doing so to look up “narcissistic personality disorder” small in numbers but they are STILL somehow the plague of AA , the constant need for admiration. look at me I am sober perfect (and your not) , admire me admire me ! that dude and his kind at those meetings have every symptom .

        • The reason I don’t go along with AA or anything else like that is because they are turning alcoholism into a moral defect.

          I am always telling people that those who have been treated with dignity and respect and given the chance to develop and apply their abilities are very unlikely to develop any problem with drugs or alcohol.

          I mean, movie stars get into trouble with drugs and alcohol all the time. It is treated as a medical problem, not a moral problem.

          But then they have large and independent incomes. They are not expected to submit to degrading and low paying jobs.

          12-step groups blame the victim.

          Nomadic

          • Thats really not how it works, AA says work on your moral defects so you have an easier time in this world and therefor not feel like crap and be less likely to drink cause you don’t feel crappy.

            I have no tolerance for oppressive shit and I endorse AA

            People that hate AA usually don’t hate AA itself but some of the people in it that ruin groups.

            I think the 12 step model could be a huge challenge to the mental health industry IF some of the problems caused by certain types of members could be worked out.

  2. I agree with oldhead, American peer specialists are propping up a corrupt system based on illusory diagnoses like schizophrenia and major depression, and on ineffective and often dangerous treatments including neuroleptics which don’t have any long-term evidence base. We don’t need these long-term treatments without evidence bases, the invalid labels, or the peer specialists which one can often only see if one also sees a psychiatrists who labels and drugs you.

    Oldhead, that was a great analogy – female crack dealers may make a few bucks an hour less than their male counterparts, but we are not going to spend time worrying about that because they are supporting an industry that kills. The bigger picture is that the killer industry needs to be shut down, not that the enablers of that industry need to be paid equally. This goes for drug smugglers, drug dealers, hitmen for hire, pimps, those who enslave foreign workers, and peer workers in psychiatry. No, I’m not joking, and trying to understand why I am making such an “extreme” comparison might lead to some insight on the part of those in the system.

    Malia, yes I have been in the system, and I know what peer specialists do. They are mostly not bad people – in fact many of them are great, very well-intentioned people – but that doesn’t mean their job is necessary or helpful in the bigger picture. As long as the method of “treatment delivery” is based on the disease model, peer specialists are inadvertent enablers of an industry which breeds hopelessness, worsens outcomes, and chops years or decades off of people’s lives to profit off pill-pushing.

    Think about it – in most state systems one cannot be “in the system” and see a peer specialist without also seeing a psychiatrists and taking drugs. Thus seeing a peer specialist is by no means a safe activity, but may in fact be inevitably linked to the taking of drugs that perpetuate a disease model view and worsen the chance of chronicity and nonfunctionality. Here is some evidence for these contentions:

    Blame it on biology: how explanations of mental illness influence treatment has a good summary of how bio beliefs reduce empathy and warmth in providers, and decrease hope for non-bio treatments etc. https://theconversation.com/blame-it-on-biology-how-explanations-of-mental-illness-influence-treatment-48578

    •William Schultz wrote an article on how focusing on biology increases “prognostic pessimism” and will provide access to his academic article on the issue – check out this link. – https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/12/70079/

    •On the same theme, Ron Unger wrote, It’s Not Just the Drugs; Misinformation Used to Push Drugs Can Also Make Mental Problems Worse – http://recoveryfromschizophrenia.org/2012/07/its-not-just-the-drugs-misinformation-used-to-push-drugs-can-also-make-mental-problems-worse/

    •Prejudice and schizophrenia: a review of the “mental illness is an illness like any other ” approach documents how these beliefs increase stigma and hopelessness. – http://theicarusproject.net/sites/default/files/files/read_prejudice_schizophrenia_biol_stigma.pdf

    •And Effects of a chemical imbalance causal explanation on individuals perceptions of their depressive symptoms describes a bit of research into immediate negative psychological effects that happen when people are falsely led to believe that their depressive experiences are definitely caused by a chemical imbalance. – http://www.uw-anxietylab.com/uploads/7/6/0/4/7604142/chemical_imbalance_test_brat.pdf

    I bet the response to this of peer specialists will be to think that I am “antipsychiatry” or “extreme”. But as Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” This goes for men and women in the system.

    I would suggest avoiding peer workers in psychiatry since they are inextricably linked to becoming involved in the psychiatric system which involves labelling and usually drugging. There are much better options for support outside the system by making use of one’s own strengths, finding non-medical-model support groups, reading more hopeful approaches to emotional suffering, and getting therapeutic support from professionals or friends/family who don’t believe in DSM diagnoses.

    And in case it’s not clear, of course I don’t support women getting paid less than men in general. I just think that in this case it’s almost beside the point, because we do not need peer specialists propping up American psychiatry. Just let it fail already.

    • I have to say, as a person who worked in the system for a number of years, you are perhaps being overly simplistic about the conflict between trying to help the people IN the system vs. trying to change the system from the outside. While I admit I did not fully understand what was going on, and when I eventually found out the truth, my personal ethics would not allow me to continue to working in the system, I would have to say that the people who encountered me were VERY fortunate, because I was one person who did not buy into the system paradigm for “helping” and was always helping them think about and develop alternative approaches to just going along with the program. I helped a lot of people stay out of the hospital or avoid self-harm because they knew I cared about them as people and was not judging them or labeling them with a “disease” just because they were upset about having horrible things happen in their lives.

      One of our posters here is a “peer worker” and appears to do a LOT of great work in a hospital setting, despite the adverse conditions. Another worked in a hospital for years as a counselor, and had to deal with that same ethical conflict in the best way he could. I admire the courage of such people, and applaud them for being able to tolerate “sleeping with the enemy” and bringing hope to those “behind the lines” of the psychiatric oppression that we all abhor.

      So let’s not be so judgmental of those trying to make things better from inside the system. I know there are “peer workers” who believe the medical model wholeheartedly and are basically cheerleaders for the psychiatrists’ agenda. But there are others who are courageous reformers who risk their jobs and reputations every day to help people who are not out here reading MIA, but are incarcerated by the MH industry and have little to no hope or perspective on their situations.

      As I like to say, “Generalizations are ALWAYS wrong!” Let’s judge people by what their actions and intentions are, rather than what role they use to try and accomplish them.

      • Steve,
        Admittedly I have not worked in the mental health system and so do not know well the nuances of peer work in and outside the establishment system. As Malia’s comment suggests below, it may be important to differentiate between peers who work in peer-run agencies, peers who work in traditional psychiatric settings but try to bring reform, and peers who act as toadies of the disease model within traditional psych settings.

        People like you and Richard Lewis are like diamonds in the rough; rare shining stars in the dark hopeless void of biological psychiatry. I applaud you for trying to help people in this way, but I still do not support the involvement of peers in the establishment system… because I do not think it is going to work to reform that system. I think both kinds of peers within the system serve to prop it up in different ways. And thus I am against peers working in the system, although my knowledge is limited to my own experience in mental hospitals as a “patient”, not as a so-called peer worker.

        I do not judge Malia. I just researched her a little bit online and I see that she is trying to do a lot of good things. In my comments on this article, my attacks are against psychiatric diagnosing and drugging – as you know my outrage and disgust with its practices affects everything I write and think about psychiatry – and not against Malia personally, and not against peers personally. I think people who have suffered severely and support others from their own experience are almost always better at helping people than psychiatrists (although occasionally, they are one and the same).

        • I don’t disagree – I think the very concept of calling them “peer workers” frames them as less valuable and less important than the “Real Professionals” with degrees. And I have also become disillusioned with the idea that change from within the system is going to be successful, at least by itself. At the same time, I value the courageous contributions such people make, and have to also remind folks that sometimes “insiders” minds are actually changed by their interactions with people in the system who know what it’s like to be a patient/consumer/victim of their services. Such people may disconnect from the system and work on alternatives and join our movement, as we have done.

          I see the concept of “peer workers” as being problematic in that there is disempowerment in the very structure that “allows” them to work in what feels like the “professionals’ realm.” And until and unless we do something about the essentially authoritarian structure of the mental health industry, that will not be changing any time soon. But I want to validate that individuals within the system can contribute to both the health of individuals and the growth of our movement. It is a very tough role to play, and it wears on you over time, as it did on me, and eventually, I think a lot of folks get to the place where they feel like you do, and I do now, that it becomes collusion when you can’t really say you’re impacting significant change within the system and people are getting hurt. But when and where that line comes is up to each individual to decide, and I will not judge anyone for trying their best to make a difference for people who have to tolerate the horrors of psychiatric hospitalization or enforced outpatient “treatment” – those folks have little enough support, and kudos to anyone having the balls to stand up to psychiatry and spit in their faces right on their own turf!

          We are all needed in this movement, including dissident insiders. The Viet Nam war was brought to an end partly as a result of dissident soldiers and commanders in the army. It can make a difference.

          —- Steve

      • Generalizations are not always “wrong,” they are just always generalizations, hence not applicable to every particular situation.

        I don’t think the issue is whether or not individual “peers” sometimes come in handy, or are maybe even indispensable on occasion. I don’t think this is arguable; it’s just not particularly relevant to my concerns about what are general characteristics of the “peer” concept, which I believe is designed to prop up psychiatric ideology and practice, and thus something we should be talking about moving past, not creating more equitable pay scales for.

      • As someone who works as a ‘peer supporter’ in the MH system, I am disappointed to hear people dismissing what we do and sometimes labeling myself and other peer workers as partnering with psychiatric oppression. I have been told that I am ‘co-opted,’ ‘worthless,’ etc. and there’s been a long line of comments in various forums comparing what we do with Nazi collaborators. What I try to do in my work is to spread the word that a more empowered and dignified life, away from the MH system, is possible – including wellness, employment and independence.

        It can be quite a struggle, when there is tremendous resistance in the culture at large and in provider agencies to the peer role (or, more often, misunderstandings of our role). I see some people where I work who ‘get it,’ and many others who blindly believe in the orthodoxy of the medical model. Often I am the only one speaking up for more dignity for the people we serve. It can be a very lonely place to be, and combined with a relative lack of peer support for peer supporters, even more isolating.

        For people in the system, learned helplessness is a huge issue. At the group home level, not many people have heard the message that peer support can work, let alone messages that they CAN live lives that are empowered and independently. I am sometimes the only one here who can reach out and introduce people clearly to the idea that there is More to life than institutions, rules, hierarchy and medication cocktails. I can and do steer people to peer-sun supports as often as I can, and stay away from making judgments for them (sometimes in the face of great pressure).

        Do I believe that the status quo of psychiatry and ‘treatment’ have failed? Absolutely. But we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by tossing those who are making change under the bus.

        (Apologies for veering away from Malia’s important argument!)

        • Jonathan, good for you for doing this work.

          Can I ask though, do you not risk getting thrown out of the system/fired if you challenge orthodoxy in this way from within the system?

          I think people like you are very valuable and potentially life-saving to those you help within the system. However, I still want to see the psychiatric system as a whole fail or be drastically reduced in size. I do not think it will be meaningfully reformed by peers who are viewed as secondary supports to psychiatrists and other mental health workers. So while I support what you do on an individual level, I don’t support the continued involvement of peers in mainstream psych hospitals/psychiatrist-run mental health services in as much as they provide life support and the veneer of legitimacy to a system that continues to predominantly invalidly diagnose and harmfully drug. I support peer-run alternatives and ways of helping people peer to peer outside of the institutionalized psychiatric system. In fact, I am a “peer” myself in this way.

  3. BPDTransformation, thank you too!

    I say we follow the Satanic Temple anti-corporal punishment letter approach. Come up with a letter which people can sign, to tell any kind of mental health professional which they run into that they don’t talk to such without their attorney present. And they can call us for further information, and of course what we will do is just read a blanket threat of lawsuit statement.

    And I know what will happen, the Mental Health Professionals will say that they are being targeted with prejudice. Well they are the ones who are telling people that they have some sort of an illness. They are lucky that this is just online instead of f2f.

    Seriously, we need to come up with alternatives, people that can be talked to when one is in some sort of trouble and being faced with mental health professionals. Perhaps these people need to at least be paralegals, or at least have printed statements prepared by lawyers on hand.

    Thanks That We Have This Forum!

    Nomadic

    • Many people do get better and deal with life problems outside of the mental health system. But it is the mental health system that does much of the academic reporting and controls the media via Big Pharma, so most of what is heard about in dealing with life problems is “treating mental illness.”

      I agree with you that legal support for survivors who want to oppose the system is sorely needed.

      Meanwhile, it is pathetic to see psychiatrists and mental health workers whine about being criticized by “anti psychiatrists”, while never coming up with any real arguments in support of diagnosing and drugging. The poor babies.

      Phil Hickey had a good article about psychiatry bashing here:

      https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/03/psychiatry-bashing/
      ————–
      “Medical students and trainee doctors are reporting that the badmouthing of certain medical disciplines is impacting on their freedom to choose psychiatry as a speciality, and the higher echelons of this specialist branch of medicine are fighting back.”
      This is a truly extraordinary statement. Medical students and trainee doctors are reporting that negative comments about psychiatry that they hear around the colleges are impacting on their freedom to choose psychiatry as a specialty! Impacting on their freedom to choose! The poor lambs! Those mean ol’ real doctors just keep picking on them, and you know, they just don’t know what to do with their lives. Shouldn’t this be a “diagnosis” for DSM-6: Excessive-insecurity-about-vocational-choice disorder? But have no fear my little lambs, your leaders are fighting back!”
      ————-
      Hopefully the dearth of new trainee psychiatrists will also spread to a lack of new peer specialists within the system, both men and women. Anything that suffocates mainstream psychiatry’s resources, exposes its practices as unwanted, and hastens its demise is a good thing.

      • After comments like these which dominated the last couple of articles, I am a bit surprised that authors like the one behind this article keep coming back to write, given that they receive mostly negative responses and seem in no way able to engage those who comment.

        On the other hand, it is hard to engage with someone who wants the extinction of your profession. It reminds me of that scene in Independence Day where the political leaders of Earth go to speak to the captured aliens, hoping to find some compromise or way of engaging the invaders, and the alien calmly and coldly informs the humans that he doesn’t want to talk to them, he wants to eliminate them for good.

        I imagine that that is a little bit what talking to me would feel like for a psychiatrist or mental health system worker. But I have little sympathy for this; I barely escaped from the mental health system’s oppressive diagnosing and drugging and I want nothing more than to see organized psychiaty destroyed or at least to save as many vulnerable people as possible from its voracious embrace. Although there are good people within the psychiatric system, that does not in any way make up for the utter corruption and fraudulence that is American psychiatry. It is a horrific system which is supported, however unwittingly, by all the individual psychiatrists and peer workers within it.

  4. I also wish to take the article author up on this timely quote from their own article: “the first step is admitting you have a problem.”

    That quote might be applied to facing the problem of using so-called peer workers to support a system which is based upon invalid non-diseases that have been repudiated even by the leaders of your own profession (e.g. Hyman, Insel, Kupfer), and which insists on drugging almost everyone, including use of long-term drugging without an evidence base (in the case of antipsychotics).

    So how about admitting those problems, which would threaten the very existence of the system within which peer workers work, before worrying about pay equality for those lowly-based workers that are propping up a corrupt system?

    The silence is deafening.

  5. Wow – the bully boys have gathered ’round to stomp a writer. Rather than address any of her presented ideas, you attack her – comparing her to a crack dealer and accusing her of being an enabler.
    You don’t know what her attitudes are about biological psychiatry & the MH system. You don’t know what she does to support & empower people who’ve been harmed by meds & psychiatry. You don’t know what adversities she has had to overcome. In your self-righteous condescensions, you just assume.
    Low. Troll-ishly low.

    • Wayne, You do the same thing you accuse us of – instead of engaging with the valid criticism that peer workers are supporting a system that perpetuates the practice of (invalid) diagnosis and drugging, you just criticize us as “trolls” and say we just want to attack others. But that is not what I’m doing – I’m making my points against the peer-worker model because I really believe they perpetuate psychiatric system which should be abolished. I do not believe peer workers are a good thing overall, because to see one, you have to also get a diagnosis and almost always also submit to seeing a psychiatrist and getting drugs. Thus seeing a peer worker WITHIN the system usually involves loss of freedoms and agency. I hope you can understand that, and not “self-righteously assume”, as you put it.

      The author of this article sounds like a great person, but as I said, there are many good and well intentioned people within a fraudulent corrupt system. And we are all for women being paid fairly. The bigger issue is that these people are enabling the continuation of the owning of psychiatry by diagnosing, drugging, and Big Pharma dominance.

      Don’t call people trolls; actually engage with people, Wayne.

    • And Wayne, I don’t just comment on boards like this; I actually do stuff too. I have a website about trauma recovery and I engage with a lot of people via email and phone trying to be helpful. Rather than give them meaningless diagnoses or drugs lacking an evidence base, I just listen to them and share my experiences in the mental health system and the dangers that I believe are involved in it. On many occasions, I recommend people to consider NOT visiting (or continue to visit) psychiatrists or peer specialists, because I honestly believe they are agents of a corrupt system, and that the danger of being turned into a lifelong drugged up mental patient is very high.

      It’s not paranoia if you’ve lived it and know how real the danger of such a system is.

    • comparing her to a crack dealer

      Way to personalize it Wayne. I on the other hand didn’t say one word directed at Ms. Fontecchio personally, and while I haven’t read the other recent comments I doubt that anyone else is reacting to the author, rather than the principle of “peer” adjuncts to the psychiatric system. The crack analogy was the first thing out of my head, I could just as easily have referred to female executives in genocidal corporations. I do in fact have empathy for the author here as she is no doubt a compassionate and caring person, it’s just that her personal goodness isn’t the subject we’re discussing.

  6. I understand the anger against the mental health system. I have lived experience and have been hospitalized against my will and was not released until I played the psychiatrist’s game. Her plan for me was that I would live in a board and care and attend outpatient everyday all day. The psychiatrist didn’t think I’d be able to complete college. She didn’t deign to discuss with me what my plans were for my life. And so I nodded my head and said, “Yes Doctor, of course Doctor, I will do whatever you want, Doctor.” Once she was thoroughly satisfied that I was complacent and compliant she released me, upon which time I immediately disregarded all of her “plans” for me and stopped the medications that made me feel like a zombie.

    I have heard from this community unfortunate stories about peers “propping up the system” as you say. To me, that is not what the peer movement is about. The peer movement was created in opposition to the medical model. It’s very frustrating to see peers being co-opted and used to perpetuate the medical model. I know. I’ve seen it. However, there are many peers and peer-run agencies that are doing good work and letting our fellow peers know that what they’ve been told by the medical professionals is not true, a diagnosis does not define you or mean that you can’t work, go to school, etc. Furthermore, diagnoses, psychology and psychiatry is not a real hard science as the medical professional would have us believe. No two psychiatrists I have seen can agree on my “diagnosis,” because it’s not a science.

    I believe peers should not encourage medication or diagnosing, and at our peer-run agency, we don’t. In fact, I support noncompliance. Any success that I’ve had in my life is only because I did not believe the medical professionals who told me that my mind would gradually deteriorate until I became homeless. At our peer-run agency we do not diagnose one another, ask about one’s diagnosis, keep charts on one another or encourage medication. Nor do we work with therapists, doctors, psychologists or psychiatrists. We are completely removed from the medical model. And although I received my MSW, I practice from a peer standpoint of mutuality and the recovery model. When I was completing my MSW internship at a county clinic I realized that is not the type of place I want to work. I saw the way the clients and the peer workers were treated as second and third-class citizens, and I couldn’t work in such a system. I am so fortunate that we have two peer-run agencies in our area. It’s not as much pay as it would be if I worked as a therapist in a clinical setting, but it’s work that I believe in. Furthermore, I do not support peers attacking one another. We are stronger when we are united. If we want to create real systems change we can’t afford to be fighting among ourselves.

    P.S. Thank you Wayne for standing up for me. You are a true friend.

    • “hospitalized against my will and was not released until I played the psychiatrist’s game. Her plan for me was that I would live in a board and care … outpatient”

      I was a victim of that kickback scheme too. My medical records said “resistant to placement” and it was used as proof I was “sick”.

      “Sick” maybe, had a bit of a drinking problem considering I need detox to stop and landed in a psych hospital after waking up and going to the ER instead of going to buy more alcohol.

      “Resistant to placement” well of course cause no one was able to explain how sharing living space with dozens of troubled men in this nasty facility would have any beneficial effect at all.

      Ya sure, I really don’t feel like drinking now stuck in a place with dozens of loosers who never shut the hell up about crime drugs sports and sex… and don’t know any other topic of conversation. Give me a break.

      100 % a kickback operation and that hospital is where they would go shopping.

      Should have just said yes I want to go and then just walked off as soon as I got there.

      The mental heath mafia is so nasty.

    • Malia,
      I apologize if my comments were overly harsh. I do support your point about men and women being paid equally, of course. It sounds like your heart’s in a good place and you do a lot to help people, and I respect that.

      I am actually very supportive of the kind of agency you describe – an agency run by people who’ve gone through very difficult experiences, for people who’ve gone through very difficult experiences. This is the kind of support I try to give to people myself, through my site (bpdtransformation (dot) wordpress (dot) com)

      As you can tell, I have a virulent hatred for establishment psychiatry and want to see it destroyed. That is why I do not support the use of peers in top-down systems that are run by psychiatrists and that emphasize diagnosing and drugging, because I think the system is absolutely destructive of freedom and wellbeing. These latter peers are used as enablers of the tyrants, and we do not need them.

      But, when it comes to peers working in peer-run agencies that do not use or strongly deemphasize the medical model diagnosing and drugging, then I support the focus on equality there since that is a model that deserves support. The use of peers in county hospitals by contrast I would liken to the use of innocent drug mules by the Mexican cartels.

      Maybe you can write an article sometime about the type of work you do in a peer-run agency and how it differs from business as usual. I would like to read that.

    • No one was attacking you. But I’m sure it’s good to have a friend anyway. 🙂

      What you describe sounds good, especially as people search for transitional means of support in the anticipated wake of psychiatry. Hopefully you are aware that by some people being “staff” (or “peer staff”?) and others “peers” a power relationship is automatically created. But that’s a different conversation. And in case you’re wondering, I would much rather be conversing with you than with the average crack dealer, male or female. Take care.

  7. Please Please don’t retaliate by voting for Hillary Clinton serial liar who ruined millions of lives with her super predator crime bill and voted for millions of deaths in the Iraq war. And “What difference does it make” people killed in Benghazi.

    The first female president should NOT be her.

    Trump: If Clinton ‘were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote’

    http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/04/27/donald-trump-keeps-playing-womans-card-against-hillary-clinton/

    Male candidate with her record, think about it.

    Is there anyone who can say that what Trump said is not true ?

  8. @The_cat I am all for gender equality and I would love to see a female president. But, I agree, people shouldn’t just support any female who comes along because she is female. One’s gender should not be taken into account when hiring or appointing individuals. I believe that females and males should be equally judged and chosen based on their experience, judgment, and record. Hopefully soon we will have a female president who we can be proud of. I don’t think 2016 will be that year. So, according to Madeleine Albright, there’s a special place in Hell for me where I will bern. But that’s fine with me.

    • Madeleine Albright says 500000 dead Iraqi Children was “worth it” in this video.

      Anonymous – A Message To Hillary Clinton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlCmdDuZGBQ

      That came up on Youtube surfing political stuff.

      At least “psycho” seems to be gender equal if that’s somehow a good thing.

      But anyway I was thinking of what a crock this Female Peer Specialists Paid Less than Males is. Put me on trial for political incorrectness but health care is a female profession.Women have always been the caring ones, dudes are just less caring that just the way it is no matter how much they want to feminize us its not in our nature as much.

      I am with a bunch of dudes and stub my toe, it hurts when that happens but they care but kind of laugh too. Watch where you are going someone will suggest. I with some women and stub my toe. Hey are you alright ?? I see a little blood, you need excessive medical attention.

      Females should be paid more in health care.

      I am glad you agree on Hillary, to inflict that woman on the world cause she *might* do something about gender pay inequality IMO would be a really selfish act.

    • Hillary C. claiming to support women’s rights is sickening. She holds young women who oppose her in ageist contempt. And she obviously didn’t think too much about Iraqi women’s rights. Let God sort ’em out I guess.

      People who want to vote for a woman should consider Jill Stein.

  9. I thought it curious how so many people seemed to overlooked the main point of this article in the rush to criticize “peers.” The gender pay gap is not only discriminatory against women, but also a weapon of class warfare.

    And the word “peer” has come to mean so many different things that it can’t always be assumed to mean “psychiatrist’s lackey.” There’s even a frequent commenter on MiA who IS a peer in a standard state “hospital” (I think), and I am damned glad he’s doing that, because he somehow manages to still keep it real. If, gods forbid, I ended up in a place like that, I’d feel lucky to have someone legit like him around on the inside. And if the author’s organization were near me, I might check it out, because I really like what she has to say.

    But getting back to the gender pay gap, I agree that wage transparency is key. The 1% hates it and there is a reason for that.

  10. I’m a certified peer specialist. I don’t provide direct services as I don’t care to. I find the balance between support and coercion to be too fine for me, even leaving labels and “treatment” aside. I certainly behaved in all the ways that met the criteria for what they labeled me, and found of level of functioning acceptable to me by initially going through the motions they recommended and then tailoring them to the lifestyle I prefer. I do probably two of the things “professionals” recommend and the rest I just figured out by trial and error. Years in treatment I’ve had 3,000 worksheets with 20,000 suggestions for self-care. Of course I had no idea that the lowest ones on the list (fresh air, food, sleep, friends) would be more important than the pills or therapy but that came with lived experience and growing up. My life’s circumstances and my reactions to them create the most issues in my life. Did I need to be drugged initially to get me off the ceiling? I’m not certain, but I’ll never know now because I was. I had plenty of fresh air when I was talking to myself for the years prior and it didn’t seem to help then, but now it does, so who knows.

    Either way, for a system that needs changed (or abolished) those of us with lived experience AND have worked in the system I believe have a unique experience as well and one that can allow us to be part of the discussion of change.

  11. I see a lot of confusion — some of it mine — about this whole “peer” thing. I think there may be a way to separate the wheat from the chaff: let’s eliminate the term altogether.

    I believe the “official peer” concept (but not necessarily the function) should bite the dust for many reasons, one being the significantly different roles — some good, some not — played by different people describing themselves as “peers.” But also because it’s a euphemism for something. Who are these unidentified others who are “more” than peers, thus mandating the distinction? What makes some people paid “staff” and others “peers”? The term seems to mask a power relationship of some sort, otherwise everyone would just be “people.”

    I would never even consider questioning the rightness of gender pay equality, should anyone wonder. My initial response to this article (deliberately provocative but not hostile) was from a perspective of questioning the whole idea of reifying “peerdom” as a “job” rather than a role. Because I would hope that anyone in such a role would consider it a priority to eliminate the need for that role a.s.a.p., rather than seeing it as a career move. That’s the direction I saw this going in, and my objection is to establishing a parallel “mental health” system with different words.

    A lot of what Malia describes in her comments sounds great. But I have heard a lot of bad stuff too about other “peer” setups. Obviously the word has no consistent meaning; one person describing themselves as a “peer” might help lead you out of the woods; another may gently but firmly persuade you to “get with the program.” The only way to solve this is by more clearly defining the process that is taking place; “peer support” is far too vague and prone to abuse.

    Meanwhile maybe MIA could find someone to write an article delineating the spectrum of so-called “peer support” activity so we can all be more well-informed about this.