In more detail:
Many of us have had the experience of being told that we were suffering from mental illness that could be managed but not cured. Our treatment may not have consisted of much more than a periodic checklist of symptoms and an adjustment of medication. We believe that we need to reclaim our own power in recovering from distress and take full responsibility in this process. This means asking questions, informing ourselves about what is going on and most of all listening to ourselves. Being distressed doesn’t make us stupid, nor does it render us incapable of exploring our psyches for answers to our problems. With a supportive environment people can start to trust again their own inner wisdom and move from distress to wonder.
The most common descriptions of psycho-spiritual distress in our society are: depression, mental illness, madness, psychosis, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder etc. People in distress are often told that they suffer from a malfunctioning of the brain and that this can be treated with medication/drugs. We encourage people to examine the scientific evidence for the illness hypothesis. We ask people to consider the evidence that distress comes from a person’s life experiences and the ways in which they have dealt with them. We also encourage people to examine the function, efficacy and side effects of medication used in psychiatry. We advocate that people examine what is going on in their inner lives to see if there is a way of making sense of their current distress and healing it. It is our understanding that distress can be tackled by doing inner work with support. We can make changes in the way we see and do things. This requires taking ownership of our own growth and realising that it will be difficult at times.
Community is founded on ideas of equality and justice. A peer-to-peer relationship is the only sensible relationship. Everyone in the community has abilities and characteristics which are essential to and enhance the vitality of the whole community. Peer-to-peer relationships enable decision-making in the best interest of all while not harming the well-being of an individual member.
Through meeting and sharing information and our experiences, we can find out what options are available to us to aid our return to greater and greater levels of wellbeing. Renew has a growing library and links to websites for information. Through our group meetings and person-to-person contact we share our own experiences of what has helped us in terms of recovery and thriving. This can include our experiences with peer support groups, psychotherapy, physical therapies, medical support, exercise, meditation, complimentary health practices, nutrition, etc. We can also encourage each other to develop a broad outlook on thriving in our lives, in ensuring that we have fulfilment in occupation and fun in our lives.
Distress can carry many different labels, people are complex multi dimensional beings and labels restrict our own and other peoples awareness of this. We can be unaware of how normal and widespread our feelings and experiences are until we meet others who are going through similar things. In Renew we have both group gatherings and one-to-one contact. Our group gatherings are responsive to the needs of those who attend and give people a chance to share their experiences and get to know each other. Furthermore we inform each other of the opportunities for further interpersonal support such as peer groups, therapies, classes, etc. Support makes recovery a great deal easier and less lonely.
We are aware that there are people working in the healthcare system who are dissatisfied with the limited options being offered to people suffering distress. Renew aims to make alliances with healthcare professionals and other carers, demonstrating that with a wellness model and a broad support network, recovery and thriving are possible. Education at a local level can begin to transform fear into compassion and stigma into understanding.