There are also emotional needs. Trauma is often related to mental illness. Having a diagnosis of severe and persistent mental illness is traumatic in itself. Many have experienced abuse in their past. The Gathering Place provides a safe, trauma free environment. We are a place of sanctuary.
There is a need for understanding. When you are first experiencing symptoms of mental illness, you don’t always have the insight or the awareness of what you are going through. Once diagnosed and treated you still may feel as if you are the only one. No one understands. That is where peer support comes in. At The Gathering Place, we may not be psychiatrists, therapists or mental health professionals, but we are the experts on mental health!
There is a need for safe affordable housing. Low-income housing is frequently located in unsafe neighborhoods. It is easy to develop a poor relationship with the landlord. This leads to eviction which leads to homelessness. The Gathering Place is a resource for the homeless.
There is a reliance on public social programs to include Food Share and Energy Assistance. Some receive child support. Many of our members rely on food pantries and sites for low cost clothing.
During the Wisconsin cold winter months members often come in with inadequate clothing. I have taken one member to Saint Vincent De Paul to find a warm winter coat. Jacqueline, CPS, has taken a member there as well for a pair of shoes, as this person came to The Gathering Place on a rainy day wearing only socks.
A lot of our members walking through the door are looking for community resources to help fill their needs. We have a wall of brochures to help guide them. Our Certified Peer Specialists are trained to help our members find resources.
Security is key. Security for people with disabilities comes in the form of Medicare, Medicaid and monthly Social Security deposits. Having Social Security alleviates the stress of having no earned income, no health insurance, or no place to live.
A big part of feeling secure is having a support system. A support system may consist of family, friends, therapists, clergy, and even pets. The Gathering Place and all we have to offer enhances the support system.
Employment is a need. Our members want to work! Many are actively seeking employment; working with the Job Center, filling out applications and attending interviews. I am pleased when members seek and obtain employment. The have a sense of pride, as they should.
There is a need for sobriety. To cope with symptoms, many people with mental illness self-medicate by using alcohol or drugs. The Gathering Place serves individuals with mental illness and co-occurring disorders to include alcohol and other drug abuse. We offer a Dual Diagnosis support group on Fridays.
One of the most important needs is social acceptance. There is pervasive stigma about mental illnesses in society. People with mental illness want to be treated with dignity and respect.