The Mental Health Support Network (MHSN) is a group designed to help people with mental health labels and /or challenges live happier and more fulfilling lives. Members within the group, pledge to help each other and themselves at the same time. This group will inspire people to reach their individual goals with the support and encouragement of each other. Sharing, caring and open, honest communication are key to the success of this group and it's members.
This group is a continuation of the "New Mental Health Movement" , which went live on meetup.com in December 2010 and started meeting in January 2011 and had many successful meetings at St. Joe's Health Center in Toronto as well as several fun socials at other location such as High Park. The Mental Health Support Network which operated as Mental Health Peer Support Organization has now over 450 group peer support meetings under its belt, with an average of approximately 65 meetings and/or socials per year. We always learn from each group as feedback and peer experience fuels our community.
Many of our members have been volunteers and or professionals in the area of mental health for years and many others are simply mental health peer members looking for support. Many of us know peer support works to improve health. Many have personally been and continue to be involved in results that have improved quality of life and even saved lives.
“Peers helping peers.” The Mental Health Support Network is committed to building communities of reciprocity through compassionate and confidential peer support. We inspire and empower fellow peers to pursue a more balanced, healthier and happier life. For those with mental health "labels," challenges and/or gifts, as well as friends and family of peer supporters.
1. Build Community of Support: A community of support for people who suffer from Mental Health "labels" and their loved ones. Reduce isolation, help each other, collaborate, reciprocate, replicate, grow, add new friends and supporters to your life.
2. Break Down Barriers: Stigmas, shame, discrimination, ignorance, lack of public understanding and acceptance are all negative barriers. Together we can start to break down these barriers.
3. Development of More Employment Options: Expand employment opportunities, explore your passions. Know your identity and your work are not the same. Collaborate to learn strategies to avoid discrimination and identify employers who are willing to hire people with our challenges and our gifts!
4. Promote Holistic Approach to Life: Balance, leisure, exercise, healthy eating, humour, love, creativity, self-direction, self discovery/exploration, emotional awareness and taking charge in your own personal growth are keys to a healthier, happier and more productive life.
- Non Judgmental – We meet each other in private places such as St. Joseph's Health Centre, and public places for social gatherings. No matter what the venue, we pledge to be non-judgmental towards each other.
- Peer support – We come together as peers with similar experiences to help, nurture and support each other. We share knowledge, experience, coping strategies and emotional, social and practical help.
- Reciprocity – We seek to build a community of reciprocity, where synergy of strengths and resources allows us to rise up and overcome shared fears and challenges such as stigma, discrimination, stress and social anxiety.
- Empowerment – We seek to empower ourselves and our community. Together, we harness the strength, courage and motivation to improve our mental and emotional health and thus, the quality of our lives.
- Social networking – Social networking fulfills an intrinsic human need to feel part of a community. We endeavour to offer camaraderie and friendship to each member of our peer group, especially in times of difficulty, concurrently reducing isolation and loneliness.
- Anonymity/confidentiality, compassion and positive solidarity – We are a peer community that is rooted in respectful, compassionate and positive solidarity. What is shared in our community is confidential; notwithstanding the social support nature of our group, we are sensitized to and are respectful of each others' need for privacy, boundaries and comfort levels.
- Success in baby steps – Our illness need not imply a limited life where we seek to merely survive; we strive to be happy and successful, setting goals in order to realize our dreams.
- Action - We endeavour to take action, get involved and make a difference. We listen, learn, encourage, get help, exercise, mentor, coach, counsel, volunteer, advocate, talk more about mental health issues and “labels”, and practice mental fitness and holistic healing (ex. medication, naturopathy, yoga, meditation, spirituality).
- Zero tolerance for abuse – We do our best to self-monitor our community, promoting zero tolerance for abuse in any way, shape or form.
- Feedback – Feedback fuels our community. Moreover, we encourage ongoing learning and growth for all peers.
- Mental fitness – We make every effort to achieve optimal mental health, recognizing that improved psychiatric symptoms results in decreased hospitalization, larger social support networks, and enhanced self esteem and social functioning.
- Inspire – We pledge to inspire each other and ourselves about overcoming our challenges and optimizing our gifts.
- Time – We pledge to offer a little bit of time into the group whenever we can. We realize that whenever we help each other; we also help ourselves