Sunday, February 23, 2014

May 4th Mental Health and Dignity Day: Organizing Events in Communities Near You

Every year communities across the country recognize mental health awareness in the month of May. This year a group of mental health peer support specialists, people in recovery from mental health challenges, are organizing to proclaim May 4th as Mental Health and Dignity Day. Using the power of social media and grass roots organizing, they are encouraging other peers and their loved ones to organize events in their local community on this day. The idea started with one person, which lead to a logo design and now a group on facebook that is quickly growing by the hundreds. The purpose is as follows: This group was started to organize local events where we honor all members of our community, recognize that mental health is something that deserves positive support and continue the fight against stigma towards mental illness.

As many as 60 million Americans struggle with mental health concerns. This is a public health issue that has come to the forefront through numerous events that have made international headlines. From gun control to healthcare, mental health is on the minds of many citizens  and part of widespread debate. What matters most is that mental health is a part of whole health. Every person struggles with his or her mental health at some point in life, and many may experience significant life interruptions as a result. What research and practice has taught us in recent years is that people can and do recover.                                                                 
Sunday, May 4, 2014 is meant to promote the dignity of every person and recognize that mental health is something we all have in common. We can  come together to celebrate the positives that come from experiencing wellness. We also must recognize that many who suffer from life circumstances that have a negative impact on mental health such as poverty, trauma and abuse, stigma and lack of access to adequate care, do not have a voice and need to be supported as equal members of society. 

As the movement continues to grow, this group intends to support communities in organizing events to bring awareness and positive change to mental health recovery. To find out more about how to get involved, visit their group on Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/marchformentalhealthanddignity/ and their fundraising campaign for the purchase of t-shirts and support for local events: http://www.gofundme.com/72szak

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Power of Peer Support: Grassroots Advocacy at Its Finest

This post is inspired by the collective efforts of a workforce that engaged in dialogue across a Statewide network over the course of about 6 months, which ultimately resulted in acknowledgement and recognition from the Director of the Michigan Department of Community (MDCH). The workforce represents Certified Peer Support Specialists (CPSS) in the State of Michigan. These are individuals in recovery from mental health and or substance use histories and are tasked with the job of relating their experiences to those receiving mental health services in order to inspire hope, encourage positive change and help support others in their recovery journey. The first step in the process for the Statewide network was to better understand the make up of their workforce. A brief online survey was created called: Employment Survey for Michigan Certified Peer Support Specialists Responses were collected over the course of a few months, results were analyzed and a one page summary on the results was written:

Here's a few highlights: there were 67 respondents, representing 29 cities and 28 counties in Michigan. Average wages, education levels and benefits were gathered and specific conclusions were made regarding whether this has become a legitimate career path, begging further questions about the current status and future of this workforce. The full summary can be found here: Survey Results Summary and below is a Youtube Video which depicts the same written results summary.


The next step in the process that the group decided to undertake was to write a letter to the new Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health who was recently appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Director Jim Haveman had previously served in this post. The letter was written and reviewed by that Statewide network of CPSS and over 85 names were gathered from across the State to sign the letter on behalf of our workforce. It was then mailed to Director Haveman. Here's a link to a copy of the:
Letter from Peer Workforce to Director Jim Haveman

The final and most recent outcome of all this work is a response from MDCH Director Jim Haveman. Given that he addresses all the points in our letter, expresses support, shows that he values our opinions and concerns and gave an example of where our feedback had already been put to use is a sign of success. See a copy of the letter below:

Great work to one and all. This is a model of how a group of people with common values and dedication to the work towards supporting those who can benefit from an equal partnership in recovery, can make an impact across boarders and within our institutional framework. It's only the beginning, but in this amount of time, collective voice, organized efforts and true advocacy is what will produce change with our first hand perspectives in mind.