In the 1980's there was a shift in thinking about the
capacities of consumers (people with a mental health problem
and/or people who have used mental health services or programs)
and the potential role they could play in organizing, delivering
and using community support. Increasingly governments began
providing resources directly to consumer organizations to enable
them to engage in advocacy, economic development and self-help,
independent of professional staff or agencies. Experts believed
that formal services were only one way to help consumers;
non-service alternatives, such as self-help and mutual aid were
also valid and should be supported.
In 1988 the Graham Report
identified self-help and family support as priority functions in a
reformed mental health system and Putting People First
(1993) called for a reallocation of funding to help
consumer/survivors and families develop alternatives for formal
mental health services.
The Consumer/Survivor Development
Initiative was born in 1991 and it funded 42 new projects
concurrently. Concurrent start-ups created stress, but there were
also successes, such as the fact that a pool of skilled consumers
have assumed various roles throughout the system, creating a voice
for consumers. The Ontario Ministry of Health was careful to
develop an infrastructure for the Initiative that regulates form,
but not content.
A drop-in program is typically offered in the day, evening, and/or
weekend. It is often unstructured with participants deciding what
to do choosing from a range of options. By design, this type of
program builds peer and social support and reduces isolation. It
often provides a starting place for participants to learn about
and connect with other health and social services.
CMHA/Peel Branch runs Eden Place Drop-In Centre, a program
of the Consumer Survivor Support Network which is run by
and for consumers. For more information, click here.
Particularly in mental health, the fact that the program is run by
and for consumers is significant and what makes it unique.
Excerpts from Best Practices in Mental Health Reform:
Consumer/Survivor Development Initiative (CSDI); Ontario