“Truly a remarkable book. Not only does it contain a brief history and philosophy of consumer-operated programs in the mental health field but also hands-on examples of eight case studies from across the country as well as glossaries, contact lists and directories. Embedded within these programs are essential ingredients of empowerment, choice, respect for diversity, creativity, humor, and advocacy. Such components are critical for humans to reclaim their lives after serious and persisting challenges such as mental illnesses. This book illustrates the wide variety of ways people can help themselves by helping others.” --Courtenay M. Harding, Senior Director, Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University
On Our Own, Together looks in depth at eight successful peer-run programs for adults with serious mental illnesses. The book grew out of a 1998 meeting that led off a nationwide study to assess not only the effectiveness of consumer-operated services programs (COSPs) but also their implications for the future of mental health care in the United States.
The book clusters the COSPs into three key types: drop-in centers, which provide varied services for their members, including meals, housing assistance, and stigma-free environments; educational programs, which train mental health consumers in recovery skills for themselves and for other consumers; and services based on peer support and mentoring.
Despite their differences, the book shows, the programs share many essential characteristics. Most significantly, they demonstrate the benefits of allowing mental health consumers to operate and govern their own organizations. Also important is their emphasis on equality, mutuality, empowerment, recovery, belonging, and hope in administering services. Such core values, the book suggests, distinguish peer-run programs from the professional services that have long dominated the mental health system.
In contrast to the dry, clinical reports that make up much of the current literature, this book is written "from the inside out" and, for the most part, by the people who developed the programs and who live them every day. It reveals peer-run programs as valuable resources within the mental health system and, indeed, a precious necessity for many consumers.