By Dan Frey, Director, City Voices, www.cityvoicesonline.org
Anyone can get involved within their community in order to strengthen the abilities of peers in recovery from mental health, or substance use concerns. Building this type of bridge is easier with the support of a mentor.
I had a mentor named Ken Steele who was well known and effective during his time. He was the founder of City Voices, the only newspaper in New York State that provides a platform for peers to share their voice with mental health experiences. In his time, Ken took some heat for the funding he received from a pharmaceutical company and his close relationship to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA) formerly the National Mental Health Association. However, he always spent the funds on his projects and on people instead of himself.
Ken also founded the Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project, which registered 28,000 people to vote in NYS. His project would have gone national had he not passed away suddenly at the age of 52. To my knowledge no one has taken up the cause of organizing people with mental health diagnoses into a voting bloc since Ken.
Twenty years since Ken died, City Voices is still going and it is gradually working its way back to Ken Steele-levels of distribution. In every issue we include content of value for the peer workforce. We are independent of pharmaceutical companies and raise money for operations from subscriptions, advertising, and donations.
To view the current issue of City Voices newspaper, click here.
In addition to the newspaper, we facilitate, and are working to grow peer-worker support groups, increase our web and social media visibility, and to start a mentoring project.
To view the flyer for Peer Workers United, click here.
All of these projects are volunteer and require a willingness to negotiate, compromise, have empathy and respect for each individual and the collective lived experiences, and, most significantly, teamwork. We do this work because we strive for a world where we feel like we belong and have the right to achieve our bliss.
I really hope our mentoring project takes wing, as mentoring helped me to stay active and engaged. I believe it can have the same impact on someone else. This year I am celebrating 10 years free of institutionalization and I hope to help others stay clear of that too.
The web address may change in time, but the email should remain.
We are seeking volunteers with lived experience in mental health or substance use who can do any of the following: write, edit, mentor, mentee, organize, co-facilitate, sell, share, social media, web design, computer work, speak, or learn. Most work can be done virtually (anywhere), while some work depends on being near New York City.
I look forward to hearing from you.
City Voices newspaper is fiscally sponsored by Baltic Street AEH, the largest peer-run employer of people with lived experiences in NYS.
To learn more about Dan Frey, click here.