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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 6 14 24 – It Takes a (Recovery) Village

I have had a few recent experiences that fit together in ways I could not have anticipated. I read the newly released, Profiles in Mental Health Courage by Patrick Kennedy and Stephan Fried. I went on a retreat with some colleagues from around the country. And I also played a very small role in locating a missing person and connecting them to help.


I got the book the day it was published. It is an important work that clearly took a great deal of effort. The book follows people through their mental health struggles and the far too often convoluted pathways to healing that people endure. The bravery of the people who shared their stories is commendable, and the amount of effort it must have taken to put this book together had to have been quite formidable. As a person in recovery who has worked in the treatment and recovery space for over three decades, there were no surprises about how very difficult these journeys can be.


I hope that people across the country read this book and understand both how prevalent mental health and substance use conditions are and also how very difficult it can be to get help and find one’s way to healing. It should not be as hard as it is, but it is so as we have designed our systems to have barriers and to provide less than what people need to heal. We do so because of the deep negative views our society holds about people who experience MH and SU conditions.


The second experience is that I went on a work-related retreat with some colleagues from around the country. It included training on a number of topics and a lot of time to talk and connect. I knew some but not all of the small group that came together for the retreat. Even those I did know, I had not spent much time with, so I was really looking forward to it. The retreat was only a few days. I learned a great deal from the presentations, and we had a lot of time to get to know each other and share ideas and interests. It was a really positive experience for me.


Everyone in the room had gone through so much to get through the challenges they faced and had accomplished a great deal. Significant achievements not just despite those challenges but as a result of who they had become through their struggles. Most took decades to achieve. Each one had a great deal of knowledge, empathy and deep commitment to helping others find their way in life through similar struggles. They were people who had within them deep resiliency and passion for helping others find similar pathways of healing and to become better versions of themselves.


What resonated with me is how many such untold heroes there are. People across the country of those who dedicate themselves to helping others heal. People who came through these challenges and reached a conclusion that the thing that makes sense to them was to help others find healing as well. We have a field of deeply resilient, intelligent and highly dedicated people. We do not often consider how powerful their contributions are. In a care system that often does not work as we would want it to, I suspect that people like the ones I was honored to spend time with on this short retreat are in no small way responsible for helping people get well despite all the challenges across our care system.


The third event was a colleague from out of my state contacting me because someone they were connected with had a missing family member in PA. The authorities had not been helpful. The person’s family was desperately worried about and trying to find their family member to get them help. I considered my contacts in the area, reached out and helped make some connections. That person’s contacts then reached out to form a web of support. Through this process, the person was found. They were alive. They reconnected to their family and my understanding is the person ended up getting help. There may have been 50 people involved in the process. It was all community based and largely invisible. How people actually get treatment or recovery support often takes such convoluted assistance by a whole lot of people.


This kind of process can be the norm. It is a system of outreach through community that is often invisible to our policy makers. That the family had connections to a person far away who knew how to use community networks to find a person on the streets of a town far away and get the person help was key here. I suspect that few people, even those in positions that can impact changes to our system of care understand that quite often people do not find help by calling a program or a call center, but instead a village of unrelated people who care and often help in such invisible ways.


So, this week I am thinking of all of these recovery villages. At that retreat, all of us present expressed our appreciation for an opportunity to rest, learn, connect and recharge. Everyone needed it! The work is hard. If one reads Profiles in Mental Health Courage, it is easy to see that our systems are broken. It may be tempting to blame those who work in these sectors for this brokenness. My takeaway is far different. Our systems are broken because our society has not come to terms with the need to have a better functioning care system and then actually support it. The truth as I see it is that there is a broad community of dedicated people who help people get better despite our deeply flawed system. If you are one of these persons, I am grateful to you.

What are you grateful for today?  

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1 Comment

Jun 15

I am grateful for your blog. I only recently discovered you. I attended the conference where you read Bill White's opening remarks and I was touched by your humblness and honor of reading his words. I was also impressed with your own story. I have great admiration for people who reach for recovery during adolesance, I think it is extremely difficult and quite powerful. I love your comments about our invisable community, who will jump into action to save one of our own. The power of recovery and our communiy I fear will remain a mystery to policy makers and the indrustry. It has been my experiance that "they know whats best for us" which in my humble experiance is…

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