Welcome 2022: Recognizing the Importance of Community to Mental Health Recovery

With January 2022 closed, we look back on 2021 with gratitude for the dedication and tenacity of Austin Clubhouse’s members, staff, board members, and supporters who kept us together as a community. We came together online and by phone during periods when our facilities were closed due to COVID, extreme weather, or a broken HVAC system. We came together outdoors in the high heat of August to mid-October when political responses to COVID made us feel unsafe indoors. Through it all, we trusted that being together in community was a valuable source of hope and healing. Other accomplishments from our working together in 2021 included:

  • Growth in lifetime memberships from 1173 in January 2021 to 1235 in December
  • Increase in active members from 64 in January to an average of 118 for June-December
  • 214 unduplicated members participated in Austin Clubhouse activities during 2021
  • 3402 outreach calls were made during 2021 to check in with absent members and invite them to join us when they could
  • 518 outreach cards and letters were sent to members
  • 160 members were employed in 2021:
    21 obtained new jobs
    8 held Transitional Employment positions
    15 held Supported Employment positions
    135 were in Independent Employment
  • 90% of members surveyed reported that participation in Austin Clubhouse increased their support network and improved their mental health.

The ups and downs of closing our facilities and finding ways to convene during COVID have taught us that the value of community to mental health recovery cannot be overestimated. Community begins with inclusion. The work of inclusion involves removing barriers for the purpose of accepting and empowering others. Inclusion is how we make room for the inner work of becoming self. Repeated action to accept and empower others builds community, and it is community–a place and culture of belonging, meaning and purpose, that leads to hope which can overcome the anguish of trauma and mental illness.

In Atlas of the Heart (p.97), Brene Brown states that hope is “not a warm fuzzy emotion that fills us with a sense of possibility. Hope is a way of thinking—a cognitive process.” She cites researcher C.A. Synder who states that hope is a “trilogy of goals, pathways and agency.” We experience hope, says Brown,  when: 1. We have the ability to set realistic goals 2. We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative pathways…and 3. We have agency- we believe in ourselves.”

The Clubhouse Model practices these tenets of hope through the Work-Ordered Day (WOD). Every member is welcomed and invited to work with staff and other members on the projects of the day that they choose. They can also seek support for a personal issue or goal.  Outreach to incumbent and potential members, social service organizations, potential employers and other stakeholders is part of every WOD. Everything done during the WOD is designed to be done with members working side-by-side with staff and other members to contribute to their own and others’ recovery.

A 2018 study of the Clubhouse model conducted in Canada found that participation in WOD activities and the accompanying mental health support of community, resulted in a progression of mental health recovery over time, starting with a restorative outcome of members feeling at peace with their illness and with themselves overall. As members continued to participate, they experienced a reaffirming outcome of moving from “patienthood” toward “personhood.” At the third stage, members experienced “re-engaging outcomes… of acquiring skills, defined as social skills, work skills and daily life skills.”

Another study reported in 2019 by the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions at Creighton University on the effectiveness of the Clubhouse Model in adults with severe and persistent mental illness found that active members in a Clubhouse are more likely to:

  • Have lower rehospitalization rates
  • Feel a sense of community and support
  • Be involved in transitional, supported or independent employment
  • Live in supported housing
  • Have a higher perceived quality of life, higher interpersonal relationship scores and lower received stigma compared to those in a rehabilitation skills model
  • Seek additional supports outside the Clubhouse
  • Develop a sense of personhood…
  • Feel accepted, understood and valued by others.

 Austin Clubhouse is a community that works to provide hope, healing and wholeness for adults living with mental illness. Thank you for being an essential contributor to and beneficiary of our community.

In gratitude,

 

Sharon Lowe

Executive Director