BOSTON (CBS) – A program on the South Shore aims to give people struggling with mental health a network of people to turn to for support.

“I thought people had given up on me or cast me away,” said Derrik Rose, a client at South Shore Mental Health who takes advantage of a peer-to-peer program.

“I don’t know where I fit in without Peer-to-Peer.”

Beginning in May, SSMH opened the doors to a lounge in one of their Quincy facilities.  Inside the blue area rug, cozy couches and sleek dining tables offer a home-like feel for clients to relax and connect with others when access to traditional mental health services is unavailable.

“Weekends can still be tough at times,” Jen Light of Quincy told WBZ-TV.

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Research suggests people with depression, anxiety or addiction issues struggle the most during the evenings, weekends and holidays.  With the Peer-to-Peer program, people can work through various stages of a crisis with “Peer Specialists,” or staff members who have lived with mental illness themselves.

Most importantly, it’s a judgement-free zone.

“We played Wii and did karaoke that night.  We just had a blast and it was exactly what I needed,” Light told WBZ-TV of the night she ran into a peer specialist at SSMH.

Light was first hospitalized 20 years ago.  Now she lives with PTSD after a really traumatic experience with a doctor who mistreated her.  After that experience, she stayed in her parent’s apartment and didn’t leave for 8 years. Getting her agoraphobia, anxiety and depression under control took a lot of work.  To maintain that progress, she relies on her peers.

“They know what you’ve gone through,” said Light.  “But also you can empathize much easier when you’ve been through something similar.”

For Peer Specialist Garrett Walsh, his work provides a mechanism to renew his own commitment to being healthier, and a way to pay-it-forward to others experiencing similar challenges.

“I’ve been there and it’s not a nice place,” said Walsh. “I believe that support and hope is what leads to recovery.”

For more information on this program, visit South Shore Mental Health’s website.

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