My Role as a Mental Health Recovery Educator

Imagine that I am coming to speak at your church. People often don’t know much about who I am when I arrive. Some may have read the event description and know that I am a pastor living well with bipolar type one, sharing my experience in managing my mental health condition. Others might see the words ‘church’ and ‘mental health’ on a poster and arrive with numerous assumptions about my expertise.

After publicly sharing my mental health diagnosis in 2023, I started receiving invitations to speak at various events and gatherings. Since then, my number one priority has been to stay in my lane. Deep down, I want to provide guidance about medication, sleep hygiene, counseling referrals, substance abuse, and numerous other mental health-related queries, but I know I shouldn’t. My advice on these topics would be tainted by my own perspective, privilege, and bias. If I provided medical, psychiatric, and psychological recommendations at speaking engagements, I would be joining the ranks of numerous other charlatans and quacks that the internet already has enough of. Instead, I speak only from my own specific experience in mental health recovery.

When I educate about mental health staying in my lane is priority number one.

Transparency is the most important thing when I speaking on mental health. When educating, before I say anything about mental health I have to qualify my expertise. At the beginning of every presentation I start with a list of things I am not. This list may seem obvious but I have to ensure that people know who I am and what I do. 

I am not...

What I have to offer...

There is value in the perspectives of people with lived experience of mental health conditions. Medical professionals provide solid, well-researched, foundational advice and guidance regarding mental health recovery. I’ll be honest; when it comes to my mental health, medical professionals pull a lot of weight, and they always have in my life. My manic episodes were events that required medical intervention for my own safety, and I am forever grateful for the combined efforts of the psychiatric community. However, there are certain things that most medical professionals cannot do. This is why I always present a list of things that I am. 

I am...

I list these things because at one point in my life, I was in strong denial of my diagnosis, resisted medical intervention, and had given up on many of the things on my ‘I am’ list. Destigmatizing mental health dialogue includes lifting up the capabilities, as mundane as some of them may be, of a diagnosed individual like myself. This is what mental health recovery education is. Through my storytelling, observations and solutions I hope to encourage others to continue the conversation. 

I am not reinventing the wheel!

Mental health recovery education is nothing new. In fact, it is quite common. If you were to search for blogs like this and seek out YouTubers and TikTok stars, you would discover an overwhelming amount of people in the mental health education genre. That is a good thing. From my mid-teens through to my late twenties, there was a lack of accessible and relatable peer support as I navigated numerous attempts at successful sustained recovery. Nowadays, I’m noticing more discussions about experiences with mental health diagnoses.

Today, join in the conversation in the comments below:

How are you contributing to a healthy dialogue about mental health conditions?

Where are there opportunities for growth and improvement when it comes to mental health education and dialogue?

Make sure to comment below!

Seth Perry

Seth Perry

(he/him/his) Pastor- Mental Health Recovery Educator- Blogger


4 Responses

  1. As a Parish Nurse, I could read your words of the life experiences you speak of, but it would not carry the impact like hearing you speak your own words to share your life experiences. I appreciate that you clarify at the outset, what you are not. I think that helps people hear your message as it is intended. When I heard you speak, I knew it would be easy to head down the road of the various entities connected with treatment, but you chose to stay in your lane. Most powerful that way, I’d say!

  2. May God continue to bless your ministry as an ordained clergy member and mental health recovery educator, Pastor Seth!

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After I went public as a pastor with bipolar disorder, people began asking me to speak at events. What expertise did I have? There is value in being an educator with lived experience. Join me in exploring mental health recovery education.