Raising Mental Health Awareness

Posted on April 19, 2012
Being at Fountain House I’ve experienced a general acceptance of who I am and where I’m at in life - whether that’s confident and participating or paranoid and hatching an escape plan from under a table. The relationships I’ve created while here have gotten me through and gotten me help when I’ve been at my worst. I can sometimes forget when I am surrounded by the clubhouse community that the rest of the world isn’t always as understanding and knowledgeable about mental illness. In recent months I’ve been lucky enough to feel well for the first time in my life. It’s important for me during this time to communicate my experience to others, in hope of fostering a greater understanding of both mental illness and wellness. 

Last month Fountain House was contacted by the Neuroscience Society at Columbia University to be a part of two events during a week dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. The week was in response to a student who was lost to suicide earlier this year. This very much brought issues regarding mental wellness on campus to the forefront.

One evening at the end of March, Andrea, a staff member, accompanied me and two fellow members to Columbia. There we spent the night telling our stories and answering questions about ways to eradicate stigma. Later that week Elliott, one of our unit leaders, sat on a panel of mental health professionals to answer questions about various treatment methods. Among psychiatrists, researchers and a psycho-analyst, Elliott was able to speak about using people’s strengths as a way of recovery.

The feedback that we got was positive. We were told that our personal experiences inspired and gave strength and that Elliott provided a unique non-clinical viewpoint that none of the other panelists could have. The evening meant a lot to me in terms of my own journey and moving forward. It also meant creating a chance for one more person in the world to be an ally in the future. In my life, the more times I speak of my experiences as a person with Bipolar Disorder, the less room there is to be judged, misunderstood, or treated in a way that either minimizes or dramatizes mental illness.

Ashley Corbiere
Education Unit, Fountain House


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