So this idea has been bouncing around in my mind in different forms for awhile. I know I’ve posted about it. And many might be tired of hearing about it. Because it’s just an extremely rough seed of an idea and many might say it has no substance at all and could never work. It doesn’t help that I haven’t been able to articulate it well.
However this week I think I found the framework I’m looking for.
As people dealing with mental health challenges we struggle with a lot of things. Finding a job or staying in school or some kind of volunteer work/ activity, having social relationships, and living in an environment that’s workable and supports healing.
I have very close friends and we help each other day by day on an online support group. I so wish that we could all be together in person to exchange our strengths and talents in the service of helping one another. A huge problem I see is a lot of isolation. My friends for the most part live alone in their own apartments. Not all but some. I notice that they often have no way of getting to any social events, have trouble maintaining relationships (a huge issue in that is others not being able to deal with having a friend with a mental illness or disability,) and sadly often basic needs are not fulfilled. For some their disabilities makes getting/ preparing food, keeping a clean house, hygene ETC difficult. As well as things like managing money and access to medication. I feel so helpless and frustrated to see them struggling along. I’m especially frustrated when they’re supposedly getting “support services” that are less than supportive. The staff coming in are insensitive, won’t change what they’re doing when it’s brought up they’re doing things that are not working, just don’t show up ETC. This leaves the person even more emotionally lost because they were depending on at least a minimum amount of help which is unreliable.
Not everyone is on their own obviously. And some do just fine. Some live with family or have family members or friends come in and it does work out really well. It’s wonderful to hear about even one solid supportive person in someone’s life as it’s so hard to come by. But even for these friends I still often pick up on a deep loneliness and wish for more ongoing support from those that are in the same situation as if the whole group of us could come together that would make a world of difference.
Then there’s residential with all its ups and downs. Nine times out of ten staff there are controlling approaching things as if they know better than the residents that live their talking down to them ETC. Even at the best of places there are rules that are designed for safety but because they’re not individualized. This includes things like when you have to be in, if someone is on restriction or not (meaning that they can only go out with staff) having to eat what’s served here only getting $30 a month, no pets, no meds in your room, no sharp objects ETC. .
Many people would absolutely not be able to deal with these rules. I’ve been here three years and have taken the rules and annoyances in stride in exchange for the good support I do get here, the best friend I’ve made and just plain how much better I’ve been doing. And knowing that I need to hang in here until I find something else better, and that any sudden move would destabilize me.
That said I’m starting to find the atmosphere very frustrating. Particularly people who lack any kind of self-awareness manners ETC and having to just put up with it. Residents that yell and scream and staff say it’s ok because that’s “their baseline” and other things.
Clearly all of these ways of doing things aren’t cutting it. I have to say I’m at a disadvantage here as I’m proposing a model I don’t have much experience with. Which would be a peer lead supportive housing program. Along the same lines as how clubhouses or peer respite centers work. That these organizations do have staf involvement however the staff subscribe to the idea that we as mental health consumers know what our needs are and can best run things with guidance rather than being told what to do. Unfortunately I haven’t as I said ever been a part of either program as a client. I wish I had. In MA they have a lot of such resources. In Chicago due to everything under the sun being cut they don’t have hardly anything. When I was in MA however I did hear great things about club houses, and online sites look very promising. Similarly I’ve heard good things about peer respite programs. Though I’m sure everything has its ups and downs.
But the idea of us making decisions around what kind of living environment would be most healing would solve many problems. Certainly the first being the isolation and lack of true understanding of the struggle. Having professionals in that understand and totally resonate with this way of thinking would be a must as well as providing for safety concerns. It would have to probably be part of a community mental health program but again one that’s extremely creative and doesn’t box people into catagories.
I see the main component of it being an apartment building where people could choose to have single or double rooms. And where they could then work out with their roommates and help of the general community healthy guidelines for living. How things like chores, preparing meals ETC would be done ( whether strictly done in each apartment with assistance from peers and staff or as a community in common areas) would have to be determined on the basis of the members needs and abilities. But a huge part of it would be the support of doing activities together, r informal support groups, hobby groups going out to restaurants and other fun things. I
Again I don’t know if this is just some crazy idea. And obviously I don’t know how it would be funded or if there’s anything remotely like it in the world. But at least it’s better than no new idea at all. I welcome any thoughts or additions. Especially from those that work at/ have been to club houses or peer respite centers or any other peer driven programs.