The Clubhouse International Seminar was created so that the entire worldwide community can share knowledge about how to use the clubhouse community all over the world. The welcome reception which took place on Saturday just after we arrived in Denver was filled with both a welcoming and enthusiastic energy. I spoke with people from clubhouses all over the world. There was a large buffet of appetizers spread all across the room and the flags of all the countries participating in the seminar were spread all around the walls. Even though I normally have a difficult time in such a large crowd with that much stimuli, I found myself taking the lead and engaging others in conversation.
The next day in the opening session former state representative and current President and CEO of Mental Health America of Colorado, Andrew Romanoff, gave a very moving speech as he shared the story of his cousin's suicide. He spoke about the stigma of mental illness and how it kept his cousin from seeking treatment even though she came from a family of mental health professionals. He spoke about how the media's sensationalization of tragic events further increase the stigma.
During the opening session there were inspiring videos produced by the two Colorado clubhouses, Spirit Crossing and Frontier House. They held up signs of what the clubhouse means to them which were all themes on community, meaningful work, a place to go and building strong relationships. The members of both Colorado clubhouses also gave an adorable performance of all things culturally popular or connected in some way to the Colorado area.
Later, Dr. Beverly Pringle of the National Institute of Mental Health spoke about the Impact of NAVIGATE, a comprehensive plan that involves community support and talk therapy in a comprehensive approach that drastically improves the recovery results two years out after the initial onset of psychosis. This is an evidence-based study that reaffirms something I already knew from personal experience. Medicine alone is not enough to treat serious mental illness. You can't just treat symptoms--you have to provide an environment for the person in recovery to help solve the causes of their illness. Clubhouses are uniquely positioned to help fill the holes that a clinical approach leaves, and gives the member a chance to achieve wellness overall.
Throughout the plenaries, workshops, and one-on-one conversations, I got a far better look at how difficult it is to promote and receive funding for the non-clinical approach. Even though the results for accredited clubhouses speak for themselves. I feel so rewarded to be part of such a strong community that is as strong as it is because both the members and the community as a whole face such adversity.