Tijdens onze eerste Krachtwerkontour
leerden wij Lisa Smusz
kennen, een ontmoeting
die grote indruk op ons maakte, dusdanig dat wij haar tijdens de tweede Krachtwerkontour nogmaals bezochten
. Toen wij haar leerde kennen was zij directeur van PEERS
, nu is zij zelfstandig consultant. Tot onze grote vreugde was zij deze zomer in Nederland. Tijdens haar bezoek heeft zij een masterclass verzorgd voor WRAP facilitators en 's middags een lezing gegeven over stigma en zelfstigma bij ervaringsdeskundigen en professionals. Een verslag van deze middag volgt, maar hier alvast de impressies van Lisa tijdens haar bezoek, samen met de bronnen waar zij naar verwees in haar presentatie.
“May I have your bracelet?” asked the tall and rather serious
looking gentleman with a heavy Dutch accent. I must have looked confused
because he repeated the question.
“Your green bracelet, may I have it?” he repeated, pointing
to the Each Mind Matters lime green bracelet I wore on my wrist.
I am distracted, prepping for the QA session
a speech to approximately 100
people working in the mental health field at Hogeschool van Amsterdam
about stigma reduction when he
approached me from the audience.
“Sure” I said, still a little confused, as I started
removing the bracelet from my wrist to hand to him.
“I’m homeless because I had problems with my mental health
and could not work anymore,” he explained, “My case manager picked me up and
told me I should come to this lecture. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I
But being in this room, with all
these people who have had gotten well, or who work with people who get well,
makes me think this is not my destiny anymore. I want your bracelet to remember
this, and someday I will be well and will be helping others. When this happens,
I will give this bracelet to someone else who needs hope.”
Finding no words that seem appropriate, I can only smile at
him and press the bracelet into his hand for a moment.
It was not the first time I was profoundly moved during my
visit to the Netherlands. I had spent the previous week visiting sites and
people that gave me a thought-provoking glimpse into how people from this side
of the globe view, live with, and treat mental health issues through art,
education, stigma reduction campaigns, and peer delivered services.
Amsterdam) is a museum set in a former mental institution, showing how the
Netherlands has dealt with mental health problems throughout the centuries. It
is provocative place with visceral art and interactive exhibits that challenge
visitors to think about the boundary between what we consider “normal” and
“abnormal.” It is both thought-provoking and intentionally disturbing at times.
In contrast, my visit to the Pitstop Zorg Hotel
left me feeling hopeful and impressed with its humanity. Set in an affluent
part of town, the lovely three story hotel is set up to provide a retreat for
people living with mental health issues. People can self-refer or be referred
by mental health professionals or loved ones when they need an “opportunity to
The hotel is bright and homey
with high ceilings, lots of natural light, and simple comfortable furnishings.
Rather than wards or dormitory style rooms common to many residential
facilities, each person is referred to as a guest and has their own private
room and access to a shared bath as well as a communal garden and picnic area
in the back. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry services are provided for the
guests by volunteer and paid staff, most of whom are living with a mental
health issue themselves. Many of the guests use the facility and the support of
the staff to regroup during times of stress or difficulty and find it very
helpful in reducing the need for higher cost traditional mental health facility
stays, but the service is not paid for by medical coverage. Guests instead pay
for the services themselves at highly reduced rates (€ 32.00 for private room
plus breakfast, lunch and dinner). Those who cannot afford a stay may be
eligible for a scholarship to stay from a philanthropic organization.
As I was leaving the Pitstop I noticed that we were in a
quite affluent residential district, and wondered aloud to the Program Manager
if the neighbors received them warmly or were skeptical.
“There was misunderstanding and concern at first,” She
replied, “But we work very hard to be a positive influence in the community.
During the week our kitchen staff make enough dinners for all the families
living nearby to take home. They come and pick up dinner for free here and see
us and meet guests. It makes for good neighbors.”
Overcoming barriers and changing attitudes is also the
central work of the Netherlands stigma reduction campaign Samen Sterk ZonderStigma
focusing especially on sharing stories of people with lived experience via
their ambassadors program, a special project to work with employers and
employees to create more supportive workplaces, as well as their efforts to
reduce stigma within health care and mental health care practitioners and
It is this final area of stigma reduction within mental
health practitioners that brought me to Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
We are discussing how mental health
professionals are not immune to holding stigmatizing attitudes, and how the
integration of people with lived experience as providers of mental health
services can promote a more hopeful and supportive mental health system.
I came expecting significant differences, but what I found
was a commonality again and again: the questions and struggles of the audience
members with their work and stigma, and the glimmer of hope expressed by the
man who wanted my bracelet. Wherever we are on the planet people struggle with
mental health challenges, fear what they don’t understand, and some try to change
and improve their communities. And here in the Netherlands, just as it is back
home in California, honesty, human connection, and hope can be powerful
I smile at the man wearing my bracelet in the audience and I
feel hopeful that more and more of us are beginning to realize that there is no
“normal vs. abnormal,” it’s just us … it's all just us, wherever we are in the
Resources on stigma-reduction:
Follow up research on the Each Mind Matters Campaign:
RAND Corporation released three reports,
which resulted from their independent evaluations of CalMHSA’s programs
and demonstrate the progress made in California in stigma reduction and
suicide prevention. Below is a brief
description and key findings from each and attached are the full reports and supporting tools for outreach.
Summary: Across one year of the California Stigma
and Discrimination Reduction (SDR) initiative, the stigma of mental
illness decreased in important ways. State residents became more aware
of stigma and more accepting and supportive of
those with mental health challenges. The methods in use by the SDR
initiative have the potential to touch the lives of nearly every
estimates that California will
benefit from CalMHSA’s investment in ASIST in multiple ways: fewer
suicide attempts and deaths, reduced spending on emergency care and
recovery, and increased earnings. After calculating
the associated state income tax revenue from increased earnings and the
state government’s portion of reduced health care spending, RAND
projects a positive financial benefit for the state government.
: “Adults Newly Exposed to the “Know the Signs” Campaign Report Greater Gains in Confidence to Intervene with Those Who Might Be at Risk for Suicide Than
Those Unexposed to the Campaign”
Summary: A mass media campaign intended to help
prevent suicides in California is reaching a majority of the state’s
adults and appears to be increasing their confidence about how to
intervene with those at risk of suicide, according to
new RAND Corporation research.
announcements created in partnership with beauty brand philosophy’s hope
& grace initiative. Over the past couple of months, we worked with
more than 70 actors, producers and entertainers
to create the “We are the movement for mental health” series of 5 PSAs
that support May is Mental Health Matters Month. Please use this link to view the PSAs:
Toolkit for raising awareness and combating mental health stigma:
Peer Leadership Institute webpage where outsiders can view past trainings recorded and available online: http://mentalhealthworkforce.org/pli