NEW YORK (PIX11) — They are not therapists or psychiatrists: they are called mental health peer specialists. 

A New York City job training program is inspiring  people to use their mental health struggles and trauma experiences to help others and get paid for it. It’s an eight-month program and there’s a $5,000 stipend.  Ben Jurney, with LaGuardia Community College, developed the program. 

Luis De La Luz, 32, is one of 20 people who graduated in the first class from the La Guardia Community College program. He’s originally from Mexico but now lives in Washington Heights and works in the Bronx.  He has a new job and, he said, a new sense of purpose. De La Luz suffered from PTSD and depression.  He never thought what he considered his biggest challenges in life would become his greatest assets in his new career. 

He completed an internship with Goodwill Industries and now has a job as a mental health peer specialist. His boss, Brendan Foley with Goodwill Industries, said De La Luz is a critical bridge to his Latino community.

Jurney described the program at LaGuardia Community College as a great stepping stone to a new career in mental health. They’re recruiting everyday people with valuable life experience.

People may not even know how powerful sharing their story can be to someone who is struggling.  De La Luz is starting a Spanish language recovery group and hopes to continue to help his community.

They are recruiting for the next training class that starts in January. If you want to apply or want more information, click here or email  MHPeerSpecialist@lagcc.cuny.edu.