Psychiatric Survivors: Our History Matters-SCCORE

Uploaded by maryvanpelt2 on 17.12.2010

I'm Mary Elizabeth Van Pelt and I wanna talk about support groups, I wanna talk about the
power of peer support. I am a psychiatric survivor, a former mental patient, and after
my first hospitalization, on a psych ward, it was six years before I met somebody that
was on a path of recovery that had experienced as intense of a break as I had and was on
a path of recovery and that person really helped spur me forward.
I'm gonna read just a little bit about the importance and power of peer support from
my book In Silence I Speak. Peer Support is the idea that individuals who have successfully
navigated the system and found their own path of recovery can help others find their way.
In Denver I attended my first bipolar support group meeting where I quickly connected with
strangers who truly understood what I was going through.
It wasn't long before I organized a support group in Alamosa. And that support group was
affiliated with SCCORE. And this is a little bit of our Colorado history that's really
important to me. SCCORE was an organization that lasted not quite six years. Was organized
in Denver. And because of SCCORE I was able to get little mini-grants, two hundred dollars
at a time, and help facilitate support groups. We had a small group in Alamosa. We met every
other week in my home for more than two years. So we've got quite a rich history. I've got
a lot of photo albums with pictures and I was recently reviewing all the history and
I was really struck by when I look at these photographs how close we are to each other
and the sense of community that was between us as we traveled and met new people and talked
about recovery. People were meeting for the first time somebody else that was diagnosed
and so those little sparks of hope kept me going. I always wanted to meet one more new
person and help somebody in our group or help somebody in a new group connect with our group
and realize that they were not alone. So that was the peer support group work that we did
and um my sadness is that we just discount this history and I think that it's so--so
valuable. What's still valuable is the importance of peers connecting with peers and showing
each other the way. And that can get caught up in a lot of negative in-fighting and the
group can destroy itself and I think ultimately that's what happened with SCCORE. But I still
remember all the things that SCCORE helped me to do. Helped me make these trips and helped
me connect with people at the national level. People like Rae Unzicker, Judi Chamberlin,
David Oaks -- Pat Risser was our first president and Bob Hiltner was our last president. We
had six presidents during the-the lifetime of SCCORE. But the group did come to an end
and I did finally decided that I needed to pass the photo albums on. And I-a I decided
I would take them to a program at the Community Mental Health Center. It's called the Clubhouse.
It's a pre-vocational program that teaches people basic living skills and employment
skills and I decided that was where the photo albums belonged because there were still people
around that had participated in the group activities who were still a part of the community
mental health center. So I donated the photo albums to their library um and about six months
later someone called me up and said oh they're changing everything, they're throwing things
out, there's new staff, there's a new program, they're gonna toss your photo albums, you'd
better come get them. So I went and got them, but I felt really sad that it was like all
the work that I had done, it wasn't acknowledged, we weren't acknowledged by the community mental
health center. Our history was not valued and that was really very disappointing. So
I brought the albums home and I've kept them for more years. But what do we do with this
history? How much do we hold on to? What is of value? And I think what's still of value
is the connecting with others that-that peer support. And I find when I tell my stories
that I find other people have experienced the same thing. The same struggles with agencies.
The same struggles to connect with other people.
"I realized I'm not quite ready to think about The End." But now I just see the end as a
new beginning. I really do -- looking over this history. Going out into the world in
a bigger way.
I'm Mary Van Pelt. My book is In Silence I Speak. My website is
and my e-mail is