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The Clearinghouse and the Mental Health Consumer/Survivor Movement


The National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, the nation's first peer-run national technical assistance center, has played a major role in the development of the mental health consumer/survivor/ex-patient (c/s/x) movement. The movement strives for dignity, respect, and opportunity for those diagnosed with mental health conditions, often called peers. Individuals who receive or have received mental health services continue to reject the label of "those who cannot help themselves." Instead, they -- and we -- proclaim, "Nothing about us without us."

Individuals with psychiatric histories face prejudice and discrimination each day, even though approximately one in five adults in the United States will at some time experience a mental health condition. Since the Clearinghouse was founded in 1986 by Joseph Rogers under the auspices of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, it has served the consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement, with a peer-run management and staff. We believe that we must share our thoughts and experiences with each other and that knowledge is the key to open new doors.

                                          
The Clearinghouse works to foster peer empowerment through our website, up-to-date news and information announcements, a directory of peer-driven services, electronic and printed publications, training packages, and individual and onsite consultation. We help peers organize coalitions, establish self-help groups and other peer-driven services, advocate for mental health reform, and fight the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental health conditions. We also strive to help the movement grow by supporting c/s/x involvement in planning and evaluating mental health services, and encouraging traditional providers and other societal groups to accept individuals with psychiatric histories as equals and full partners in treatment and in society.

In addition to developing our own publications, we maintain an extensive library of information on topics important to c/s/x groups interested in self-help and advocacy, including peer counseling, deinstitutionalization, fundraising, involuntary treatment, patients' rights, using the media, and many others.

Consumer-Driven and Peer-Run Services

All over the world, mental health consumers/survivors are creating self-help groups to provide peer-run and consumer-driven services, which can respond more readily to their members' needs than traditional system providers can. These groups work to become powerful advocates on their own behalf, and form coalitions seeking to reform mental health care and fight the prejudice and discrimination society attaches to mental health conditions. Each day, the Clearinghouse provides targeted technical assistance to many of the individual peers, self-help and advocacy organizations, and peer coalitions involved in this important work.

Clearinghouse staff have participated in the creation of many local self-help groups through direct consultation, training and technical assistance. We counsel group leaders on how to raise funds, recruit members, develop leadership, publicize activities, develop peer-run services, and resolve internal conflicts. We also arrange on-site visits from our trained peer staff or experts from our extensive network of consultants.

The Clearinghouse's new Consumer-Driven Services (CDS) Directory is a major national resource enabling individuals and groups to learn more about leading programs, connect with development staff and access peer-driven organizations in their area. This Directory features listings of programs in all the major areas of services. Visit the CDS Directory website for more details.

Networking the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-patient Movement

The Clearinghouse sponsors, organizes and/or participates in a number of national events that bring together large numbers of peers to discuss the issues that affect us and to work together to bring about change. These include many of the Alternatives conferences and the 2012 Wellness Solutions 1.0: Uncensored Innovation conference. The Clearinghouse also organized the first National Summit of Mental Health Consumers and Survivors.

The Clearinghouse supports networking and cooperation among c/s/x-driven organizations in many ways, including promoting the work of c/s/x groups, hosting teleconferences, fostering c/s/x representation on advisory boards, and promoting c/s/x communications via the Internet and print media.

To be an effective advocate, you must network with other advocates. A great way to get connected is to join the Clearinghouse. We've created a network across the nation of over twenty thousand individuals and groups who are working for change in the mental health system. We hope that you will join us so that we can help each other advocate more effectively.

Contact us by mail, phone, fax or e-mail

Clearinghouse

1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1100
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (800) 553-4539
or (215) 751-1810
Fax: (215) 636-6312
E-mail: info@mhselfhelp.org