Cottage Farm Centre - Why?

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Introduction Problems with the present vision of treatment and recovery. Problems with the present housing options The proposed housing Advantages


Cottage Farm Centre for Mental Health Main Page

As the mother of a seriously ill schizophrenic son with dominant negative symptoms, and a friend of many families with schizophrenic sons and daughters who remain in profoundly unsatisfying living conditions, I am presenting a different model for living from housing solutions which are presently available for the chronically Seriously Mentally ill.

I should be clear here that as far as my limited experience shows me, the present system can work well for those who respond to medication , and/ or, have primarily positive symptoms. Psychosocial, CBT, recreational, and vocational training are excellent tools, but there are those, who are chronically plagued by negative symptoms or respond poorly to medication, this residential therapeutic community is for these people, or anyone, who, because of their illness is unable to create community around themselves.

Humans are social creatures, and, just as people with autism were once considered to not need emotional bonding, so, we also seem to assume that people who live out their lives in the solitary cage of schizophrenia choose to do so. I am proposing that, for those clients who cannot create community around themselves, that we create it for them, and not just for a few months, but, if necessary, years, perhaps, for life.

The present system of care sees the progress of recovery as moving the client from hospitalization – Supported Housing – a group home – to independent living. A laudable goal, however, as many families know, the reality of this for our loved ones often means a bleak, lonely, and often fearful existence. Just a week, even for those of us who are not plagued by delusions, and cognitive deficits, in a boarding room would be almost intolerable, and yet we are told that our mentally ill child has now “graduated” to “independent living”. Although these men and women, are frequently frightened, confused, and often rendered almost helpless with apathy, they do not lack the need for deep and meaningful emotional connection, spiritual sustenance, and, community, indeed, if challenged by profound cognitive deficits, this may be more important than ever.

Group homes would seem to be the solution, but too often, variable staffing quality, and the challenge of too few staff, whose primary goal is management and education, rather than relationship and the building of community affect their quality.

Put eight seriously mentally ill people in the same house with nothing to do most of the time, and apathy will soon take over the atmosphere. Staff are trained to keep professional boundaries, and interactions with the clients have clearly delineated understandings of who is in charge, and who is the dependent in this situation, as a result, healing from authentic relationship is almost impossible.

I have experienced first hand the healing qualities of living in a community where everyone, works, and is needed, whether in the garden, the kitchen, as a psychiatrist or a recreational therapist. Where work is not considered manual labour, but a gift that we both receive, and give. Healing can gradually come and sit with one, as we attend thoughtfully to the land, the folk we are working with, and ourselves. Work teams are made up of both well, and ill, whose task it is to attend to the work, and each other, as well as they are able.

In summary, I see that the goal of Mental Health has been to help the client change to live in our society as it is. I am proposing, that if the client is unable to heal enough to live well in society as it is, then we must change the society to meet the needs of the client.

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