The faces of mental illness are many. Confusion. Despair. Loneliness. Alienation. These are the people you cross the street to avoid. They’re the ones who talk to the voices in their heads, sometimes very loudly. They’re the ones who probably haven’t seen a shower in awhile. Right Guard is not on their list of essentials.
The Mental Health Cooperative embraces these people. And they have taken a radical approach to helping them out of isolation and into the mainstream of society.
MHC is housed in a sprawling complex in Metro Center. It’s a one-stop shop for everything helpful to those suffering from mental illness. There is a clinic. There is a pharmacy for filling prescriptions. There are case workers who are available to their consumers, as they are known, on a daily basis. There is job training and recovery programs and, most of all, acceptance.
In the most severe cases, MHC offers daily care to their consumers. Betsy and I toured MHC last week and watched a video of a man who had been institutionalized his entire life. His case worker was taking him to the grocery store. Yes, he had those voices and he talked to them quite often during his trip down the aisles. But he also conversed normally with those around him and had no trouble picking out his groceries. Imagine what that man might be like today if he had real care when he was younger.
If the consumers can’t get to MHC, the services travel to them. MHC even has a psychiatrist who visits homeless consumers and can write and fill a prescription on the spot.
The staff of 400 serves more than 6,000 clients in Middle Tennessee. They are all about inclusion and breaking down barriers for those who cannot walk through some doors on their own.