Justice in Mental Health Organization




The philosophy behind consumer-run (peer-run) organizations is that by working together and sharing experiences we have had in the community, we are able to help each other.  The fear of the mental health professional is taken away at a peer-run organization, because everyone has been through similar experiences. 


The Purpose of a Drop-In


  • Safe, supportive, normal environment for individuals suffering from a mental illness”. 


  • Providing an atmosphere of acceptance where individuals feel needed and grow in self-worth, dignity, and self-respect. 


  • Increases knowledge of community resources, allows individuals to learn from one another, and provides a place where social and recreational activities can occur. 


  • Provides social support for persons at risk for psychiatric hospitalization with organized and informal recreational and social activities where we can assist each other in solving daily living problems(social, recreational, housing, transportation, and vocational).


  • Places emphasis on helping individuals feel independent and make decisions.  We have something to offer each other and by helping run the center and supporting each other, we develop a sense of usefulness, increase feelings of well-being, and minimize risk of hospitalization. 

 Understanding and Support


  • Individuals interact with others who have shared similar experiences, such as hospitalizations, medications, doctors, therapies, etc. 


  • A powerful support system is built that helps individuals through painful times.  One of the main reasons individuals come to the center is that personal support. 


  • Individuals find that discouragement, fear, rage, pain, and anxiety are all natural human emotions, and not unique to them because of their diagnosis.  We realize that our hopes, dreams, fears, and pain are no different than those of others.  This realization helps us feel less alone, different, “crazy”, or afraid in the world. 

 A Place to Go, A Place to Be


  • The center is a place to go, and a place to be, it's that simple.  There are no demands, such as when one is hospitalized, or in therapy. One is able to relax, enjoy, and just experience. 


  • Many of us have nowhere to go and would remain isolated the home because the stigma of "mental illness" is out in the community. 


  • Individuals need interaction with others to grow and to live.  Individuals need somewhere to go where they can feel safe.



At the Drop-In, stigma is eliminated through acceptance.  With this acceptance, individuals with emotional and mental health problems change their view of themselves.  As they are accepted by others, they learn to accept themselves and even like themselves.  The judgmental attitudes of society are absent at the center because every one has been in a similar place or shared a similar experience.  At the center there is no shame in being a person with mental or emotional health problems. 




  • Often in the life of someone suffering from a mental illness, a sense of family is missing.  The support we get from a drop-in center is a sense of family to us. 


  • Along with the sense of family, comes the sense of home.  Many participants come to the center because it is like “home” to them.  A place that is familiar, predictable, and safe.  There are always others at the center who care and understand. 


  • Individuals come to the center to share their lives.  Even individuals that have been away from the center for a while always know they can come “home” to share their successes and their challenges.  Nowhere can we find this same unconditional acceptance and support that the center provides.  



  • We lose many of our rights in the chaos of the mental health system.


  • Empowerment is the rebirth of our sense of rights, beliefs, and ideas. 


  • Empowerment is the learning to take control of our lives. 


  • Empowerment is pride in ourselves and where we have been.


  • Empowerment is doing for yourself and allowing others to do for themselves. 


  • Empowerment is not giving up.  It’s facing each day with all its trials and knowing that you have made it through another day.


  • Empowerment is learning of the extraordinary strength we have within us that has brought us through our pain. 


  • A drop-in gives us the opportunity to find within us the empowerment to run our own lives and make our own decisions. 


  • Individuals learn about their own identity and expand their sense of who they are. Their strength and confidence increases through growth of self-identity which expands their self-empowerment skills.



  • The drop-in creates a safe environment through acceptance.


  • No one passes judgment, diagnoses, medicates, or hospitalizes.


  • No one is seen as sick or chronic.


  • Individuals are not feared or shunned by others.


  • Individuals don’t need to hide who they are. 


  • Individuals will not be thrown out for talking to themselves or acting “funny”.


  • Only at the center can individuals find the safe acceptance to be themselves.  The center’s safe environment allows many positive interactions to take place.  Individuals find inner security, relief and hope.  All individuals need a safe place in their lives, often the only safe place for consumers is the center. 

 Humor, Fun and Entertainment 


  • Our lives can be traumatizing and painful.  Some of us have lost the ability to have fun and enjoy life. 


  • The center is a place where individuals are able to enjoy themselves and have fun.  The ability to enjoy one’s self for even a short period of time can drastically change one’s life and give individuals the will to endure future pain if necessary.  Everyone needs time and places to experience fun and relaxation. 


  • Humor gives us a reprieve from our pain.  Nobody can survive with only pain in their lives.  They must have humor and joy too.  The center is a great place for individuals to go experience that needed happiness. 

 Problem Solving


At the center, individuals learn to create and initiate new ways of solving old problems.   At the center individuals receive assistance learning problem-solving skills both by example and by direct assistance.  Often a problem seems so overwhelming and out of control to the individual that a solution cannot be seen.  People who feel that they have no control in their lives find problem-solving difficult.   With encouragement and support individuals learn that there is no problem so overwhelming that a solution can't be found.  By interacting with others, consumers learn that they are not the only one with problems and are given hope in solving them.  Learning problem-solving skills is a vital step to independence.


Diffusion of Crisis


Individuals rely heavily on the center in times of crisis.  Individuals have come to the center after attempting suicide.  They know that the people at the center will help them.  They know that at the center they will find people who care about them and won't let them die. 


Individuals know that the people at the center are always there to help them through crisis.  They know that the individuals there can understand and offer support.  The center gives individuals a stable ground on which to stand and a place to regain their strength. The diffusion of crisis is what keeps individuals out of the hospital and keeps them well. 


Dignity With Risk


The center is a place where individuals with emotional/mental health problems are given the opportunity to learn to take risks. They know they will be accepted whether they succeed or fail.  The center serves as a safety net providing a secure place to return to after taking new risks.  Individuals receive support and encouragement in facing the fears of risk-taking.  People sometimes learn that the choices they made are bad, even with good intentions. Peer-run organizations assist them with learning positive choices that will improve their lives.  At the center individuals learn that the only failure of risk-taking is to not try.  People have gone back to school, attained new jobs, began therapy, moved into independent living, stayed out of the hospital, faced challenges and learned to go on with their lives thanks to the support and understanding of their peers.




The center creates hope for a positive and productive life.  Once hope is lost by an individual there will be no positive growth or movement. At the center hope is created.  One learns and experiences hope from seeing others doing better.  Hope is also created, most importantly, as you find others who care about you.




The center is a non-judgmental place.  The judgments of the outside world are absent.  No one is making judgments about how you look, dress or act.  It is a place where only constructive enhancing criticism takes place, criticism that does not hurt or harm.  There is not any scrutinizing or monitoring of behavior like in a hospital or therapy.


Shame-Free Environment


Individuals with mental/emotional problems feel a great deal of shame for their problems.  At the center individuals find a shame-free environment.  Individuals are given respect and treated with dignity as human beings and each person is seen as their own unique individual.  The center is a place to heal from the pain, guilt, humiliation and embarrassment we have been made to feel for the mental/emotional problems we face.




The center is a place where individuals can begin to take risks.  It is safe and they know that they will be accepted whether they succeed or fail. They grow from these experiences of having the opportunity to make their own decisions and receive support, even if the decision didn't work out. Because of the support, even if they fail, they are acknowledged for making the effort. Through this process, they learn that it is okay to make decisions, even if they are wrong; and that it is okay to continue taking risks.  The center plays as a safety-net, providing a secure place to return to after taking new risks. 


Transitional Point


The center is ideally a transitional point, a place of progress in the recovery for individuals experiencing emotional problems.  People come in, spend time at the center and move back into society and begin the rest of their lives.  For some individuals this process is short, for others it takes more time, but the center works for both.


Being Alive


The center is about more than being “mentally ill”.  The center is about learning to be alive again.  The center is about learning and sharing ideas and stories that others take for granted.  Over 15,000 individuals use drop-in centers in Michigan each year.  None of them are forced to go there, none are ordered there for treatment.  So why did so many individuals go to these centers and keep coming back?  The centers offer something to people that they cannot get anywhere else.  That something is more than can be summed up in these words.  Through the peer-support and opportunities received in a peer-run organization, the centers give individuals a chance to be "well", and a chance to be alive again.



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