The Academy creates community and connection to reduce isolation, depression, and anxiety.
Lisa started a weekly social group that meets on Saturdays in the park with fellow members and their dogs; the group is called “Pet Therapy” and each week half a dozen or so members attend, enjoying the adorable pups, the beautiful weather, and the friendship. A neighbor shows up at our door on a Tuesday and tells us that he met one of our members at the park and was invited to lunch. It turns out, he’s a great fit for our program. Carolyn made a friend at the local swimming pool who told her about the Academy and now she is a member, and gainfully employed for the first time in several decades. These moments are wonderful, but they are not unique at the Academy.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we got to thinking about our place in recognizing the holiday. The Clubhouse movement began in the 1940s with just a handful of people who found each other much in the same way that our members find each other. Prior to formally establishing the first Clubhouse, they called their group WANA, which stands for We Are Not Alone. For all the skill-building, the employment support, the education and advocacy that we do, we think that single most important aspect of the Academy is the strong community we’ve created. Isolation breeds depression and anxiety. The Academy creates connection.
Here is a challenge to our readers: in the month of May, do one thing each day that might impact someone in a way that makes them feel seen. Say good morning with a smile and real eye contact, call a relative who lives alone, remind a friend of their worth. We may never really know the depth of the impact that our kindness might have on someone who may be feeling disenfranchised. And if you, dear reader, are feeling that disconnect, knock on our door. We are here, and you are not alone.