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[Soft piano music plays]

[A black screen with white text displays with the following text]

[Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI) celebrates its 25th anniversary. OPDI was established to support alternatives with people who have experienced the mainstream psychiatric system. OPDI strives to provide a strong, cohesive, and unified voice for psychiatric consumer/survivors across Ontario.]

[OPDI membership includes more than 50 Consumer Survivor Initiatives (CSIs). This documentary offers portraits of 3 of those member organizations. OPDI members celebrate the past and present of their organization and also address urgent issues which challenge the future independence of Consumer Survivor Initiatives.]

[Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa (PSO)]

[A woman wearing a pink sweater comes into view. She is seated n front of a purple bookcase. The name Debbie Warren shows onscreen.]

It was such July 22nd, 2006

I was working as the manager in high tech.

I was doing really well.

And I had the day off and it was 2 o'clock in the afternoon and I heard the doorbell rang, my dog started barking.

I'm from a military family background so I just put my head forward - we had like a stained glass front door - and through the door I could see stripes on a sleeve and my son was in Afghanistan so I knew what that meant.

It was the longest walk of my life and I went to the door and sure enough it was the military telling me that my son had died one week before coming home.

I heard the news at 2 o'clock so at 2 o'clock from that day forward I started to drink and I would drink until I would black out, basically.

I was just medicating with alcohol trying to get rid of the pain.

[The camera zooms in to a tattoo on the woman’s arm which is green and red with a fern and the words “Lest we forget”. Then to a photo of her son in a green camouflage uniform and hat with a Canadian flag on the left sleeve. Then back to the woman.]

Two years to the day of my son's death I checked myself into the hospital.

I was severely, severely depressed.

Very depressed.

I had been for a long time.

They had a peer supporter in the hospital where I was, Tyrone, and he talked to me about an organization where I could go where everybody had lived experience.

[The video transitions to the outside of a brick building with the words “The Bronson Centre” written on it. Debbie Warren is walking inside and then up a set of stairs. The camera transitions to a purple room and shows three men seated on a leather couch as Debbie Warren picks up and moves a chair to the side of the group, sits down and begins speaking with the men. The camera transitions to a closeup of Debbie Warren’s face.]

When I first came here I started with the drop-in and community transition and I learned about the WRAP, that's an education in itself - a Wellness Action Recovery Plan and then Pathways.

I took the facilitator courses.

Then, I did to peer to peer and that gave me an opportunity to give back, so I volunteered for several months and I had a peer out of the hospital and we would just walk.

We would talk.

We'd go for coffee and I would say well to pass on that hope that you tell the person, say, you would not have recognized me two years ago, you would not have recognized me - I was a totally different person.

And that inspired hope and that's the best kind of education you can do is to just pass that hope on.

It's exciting.

And now I work here.

I never thought I'd be working again and here I am working for this great organization.

[The video transitions to another part of the same room to show two women - one eating food and one with a coffee cup. Then the video transitions to one of the women who is in front of a bulletin board. She begins to speak. The name Janet Thanda appears onscreen.]

An organization like PSO, that's equipped to give us all of the, you know, the ins and outs and to make us have a complete life, you know, a well balanced life, you know.”

[The video transitions to a closeup of a man’s face. He begins to speak. The name Francis Laveaux appears onscreen.]

You get that positive attitude, that positive vibe, that makes you feel needed wanted and appreciated and, you know, it lifts your morale and you know, it makes you feel sensations that you deserve to have.

[The video transitions to a closeup of a man’s face. He begins to speak. The name Jim Wayner appears onscreen.]

What we have to remember is everybody has some type of a mental capability and the fact that matters is getting by that hurdle and these places here they most surely do help you do exactly that.

[The video transitions to a closeup of a woman’s face. He begins to speak. The name Margaret Halliday appears onscreen.]

And it's the only place that where people understand my illness and I'm going through a spell with something, people understand. I’ll come in here and talk to people and so, it’s um, it’s, coming here is the beginning of getting active.

[The video transitions to a closeup of a man’s face. He begins to speak. The name Patrick Tardiff appears onscreen.]

I know many weeks ago when we had our facilitator mentioning he was having a tough day and he had some tremors and his legs were very jittery that day and I was surprised because he was still there. He was still trying to help us and he was, he was helping us but also mentioning that, you know, but although I'm here and I'm trying to facilitate and help the group, I’m also having some struggles so you know, just bear in mind that, you know, we all have struggles and, and for me it was as if there's a very good moment because you don't have to be all strong all the time. You can be a normal person.

[The video transitions to a man’s seated in a kitchen. He begins to speak. The name Tyrone Gamble appears onscreen. The camera zooms in on Tyrone Gamble’s face.]

Peer support, unless you go through that lived experience, unless you have a mental health or addiction yourself you've struggled with it, you've been to the hospital in some cases or, you know, you suffered with it, you've found a way through it and and you know, you've really sat with it and sat without discomfort and that's what peer support is - learning to sit with discomfort and helping someone else sit with discomfort as painful as that is because, I think, too often in society and from mainstream organizations, we want to get to the other side - we're so, so focused on getting someone better, we don't go through the process of how to actually get there and we always want to go around or over but not through and through is where real healing takes place. If it's just helping that person stay out of the hospital, I don't know if that’s, for me, really the biggest thing I want to see out of my mental health services or addiction services - I want to see not just someone who is barely surviving and they’re just in the community and they're not in the hospital but I want to see someone who's taking up their life again and developing a new life and just doing things, you know, being able to change the world around them, engage it and, you know, how have such a vibrant energy about them - that to me, that having a recovery. That’s, you know, transformative, what the key to me is.

[The video transitions to a Tyrone Gamble standing in front of an elevator. He gets into the elevator. The video transitions to Tyrone Gamble getting inside a red SUV and driving away. Then to a closeup of Tyrone Gamble sitting behind the wheel. Then to a busy highway. Then back to Tyrone Gamble sitting behind the wheel. Then to a street. Then back to Tyyone Gamble parking his vehicle, taking off his seatbelt, getting out of the vehicle and walking into The Bronson Centre.]

I'm usually going to at least two to three jobs in a day, if not four. The hospital I work at is out in the West End - PSO, the Bronson Centre - that's downtown. CMHA, where I work is in Billings Bridge, so it's about a 20-minute drive from PSO. Some people argue if having so many jobs, I don’t practice good self-care but part of my self-care is the jobs. It's very difficult to make a living as a person with lived experience, especially if you want to do mental health work, not because organizations are necessarily treating me bad, but because peer support isn't given the same funding. I make sometimes about $13, $14 dollars less than my colleagues at the Kane Mental Health Association. The system doesn't know how to compensate us for our experience and our expertise. I've seen organizations that turn peer support workers into assistants for other workers where we're called a peer support worker or a peer supporter or many of the other names for peer work but what you're really doing is a guy is basically assisting someone else and doing their work. You're cheap, cheap labour that's just able to do most multiple tasks that the other worker just doesn't want to do or doesn't have time to do.

[The video transitions to Tyrone Gamble walking down a hallway and up to a door which he then unlocks. A sign on the door reads “Come on in. The doors are closed for the air conditioning” He walks to a table where Debbie Warren is setting up a table. He begins to help her set up. The video transitions back to the men seated on the leather couch in the purple room.]

As a peer supporter, I think I need a strong base in a Consumer/Survivor Initiative to be able to do my role in other places. With PSO having a voice in the community, I can add my voice to that in my organization. If PSO didn't exist they can completely change what peer support is because peer support is open to their interpretation.

[The video transitions to a woman’s seated in a pink room. She begins to speak. The name Sonja Cronkhite appears onscreen. The video transitions to Debbie Warren standing in front a two doors in a hall. She is speaking to an unidentified woman. Then back to Sonja Cronkhite. Then to a room where Sonja Cronkhite is seated and speaking to an unidentified woman. Then back to Sonja Cronkhite.]

Peer support isn't just a model that you can put in a place and it works. Peer support is something that comes out of people's experience - and not just people's experience as an individual who's been in the system, I mean, that is crucial, that is a crucial part of it, but people's experience is part of a community and I think it's important that we still maintain that voice and it gets really tricky if you don't have the independence to say things without fearing losing your money, losing your job, losing something, being penalized in some way. I think it's incredibly important that we get to be independent and that we get to, we get to call the system on the things that aren't working for us. We're the first people who know and ultimately, I mean, when you talk about what it's like to be at the mental health system it's about not having control over your own fate and these are some of the few places where we and the people who come here have some control over our fate, and control over what we've built and what we own.

[Mental health Network of Chatham-Kent]

[The video transitions to a video out a car window that is driving by a field then houses and retail buildings. Then to a car pulling up to a house. A woman and man get out of the car and walk up to the house.]

We had a seven-year lease in our first location and it was a commercial storefront property. It was nice - bigger, but it wasn't home and so I sent a letter at midnight to our board members saying what if, what if we could purchase a property that belonged to the membership, what if we could sustain that property over the next 30, 40, 50 years and people would have a place to grow and recover? That truly belonged to them. And by the next morning, I had a response saying let's look at it.

[The video transitions to a wooden sign hung on the wall reading “LOVE LIVES HERE”. Then to a woman looking at the sign and talking. Then to a closeup of the same woman seated in a chair. She continues to speak. The name Kelly Gottschling appears onscreen. Then to the view looking out of the living room window across the street at two other houses. Then back to Kelly Gottschling.]

It was the first thing that we hung when we moved here. Here, many people said that it was really important for them to see that - it was so different than any other model that they had come to see.

We met with the neighbours, the library planners, set that up, that was part of our expectation by the municipality. The neighbours came out. Many of them didn't want us, you know, we really had to handle it sensitively and positively. Our mayor was extremely supportive as he has always been. We all went together to get the key on the first day and Lenny carried me over the threshold - we have a picture of us on our first day all opening the door together.

[A photo appears of a group of approximately 35 people posing in front the house. The video transitions to a group of people seated outside. A woman begins to speak and the name Amy Jo Jinkerson appears onscreen. Then back to a wide shot of the group of people.]

With the Hope House or the Mental Health Network is trying to build a sense of, you know, I guess appearance in the community and and getting rid of the stigma of mental illness.

[The video transitions to a closeup of two of the women. The name Katie Sales appears onscreen as she begins to speak.]

Your mental illness doesn't define you - you're still a human being - you have all these other aspects of you that make you whole.

[The video transitions to the group of people again, some seated, some standing and a man is barbecuing on a back deck. Then to a closeup of a man who begins to speak as the name Tom Glazier appears onscreen.]

I see people taking ownership of their illness, of their lives again or sometimes people just weren't able to do that but not only that - they're picking up skills, they're learning new life things and then as new members come in they're passing that on as well. So, it's it's very much a mentorship.

[The video transitions to a closeup of a man. He begins to speak as the name Jeff Dube appears onscreen.]

We do outreach at the hospital. I do groups there every Monday and that's open to all ages but specifically young people. We try to introduce them to the programs that are available in the community like our Young Minds Program.

[The video transitions to a closeup of a woman. She begins to speak as the name Sarah Lappan appears onscreen.]

When I first came into the Mental Health Network, I always saw myself as a client because that's the way you're treated if you're in the hospital or if you're, you know, and so I met Jenny and she said to me, she said, you're a member, you know, you're no different than me or anyone else here and that really hit home because over the years that's not, you always felt like you didn't measure up.

[The video transitions to a closeup of a man and three women. One of the woman begins to speak as the name Heather Sliva appears onscreen.]

I'm petrified in the hospital. When I go in the hospital I'm down to, like, mush.

This is different because you can be you. You can - I've learnt to be me. I used to hide me but now I'm learning to be who I am and I am accepted for who I am here.

[The video transitions back to the group. One of the women begins to speak as the name Mary Lou Kochanski appears onscreen.]

We really understand each other very well if something is to go wrong. So, we kind of give each other strength and encouragement to carry on.

[The video transitions back to the group. One of the women begins to speak as the name Diana Lebonte appears onscreen.]

I've seen a lot of members end up going on the board and stuff and I also see our members making guest appearances to talk at some of the open forums and stuff. We try to encourage that.

[The video transitions back to the larger group with various people conversing.]

We need more funding.

We do.

[The video zeroes in on the man from the smaller groups as the name Lenny Moore appears onscreen.]

We need to pay off the mortgage for Hope House, keep that sustained, some money in reserves you can draw upon for emergencies or special programs and stuff.

Your boat trips.

[The video transitions to a photo of a man working outside and standing in a swimming pool. Then to a man building a wooden back deck. Then to a man and woman holding a tree that is ready to be planted. Then to a woman painting a door. Then back to Kelly Gottschling.]

The model has been for so long telling people what to do. Our model is of empowerment and equality. We offer something different. We are under a paymaster agreement with Canadian Mental Health Association who oversees Chatham and Sarnia. When we purchased the house, we purchased it, the corporation purchased it, ultimately, our board of directors, myself, were responsible for it. But, it was under the understanding that it would be owned by the Mental Health Network. So we've had some correspondence over the past couple of months asking whether or not we owned the property or CMHA owns the property. CMHA adamantly has stated that they do not own the property, do not want to own the property, and want to encourage and continue to encourage our autonomy. So, we do have upcoming meetings with the land. We need to be very certain that they understand that the persons that attend Hope House owns a space. It belongs to the membership. And if we do it well, it will belong to them forever.

[Participant’s Council, North York General Hospital, Krasma Centre, Richmond Hill]

[The video transitions to a man riding a bicycle and the camera view is from a camera affixed to the man’s helmet. Then to a woman in a hallway pinning a piece of paper to a bulletin board. The word “HOPE” is on top of the bulletin board. Then to the man approaching a building on his bicycle. A sign reads “North York General, Branson Ambulatory Centre, East Entrance”. Then to the man walking his bicycle down a hospital hallway.]

I try and practice some hope in my life - there are days when it just feels overwhelming - but for the most part it's a good feeling that I know if I'm not up to it there's Teresa or someone else who's holding it for me. It's allowed me to practice being Dylan. The system I encountered 30 years ago - it's much changed - but much of the grandiose injustices have been refined, they're much more subtle now.

[The videos show a man and a woman seated behind a messy bookcase. The names Dylan de la Rivière and Therese Claxton appear onscreen as the woman begins to speak.]

People talk about, you know, it's a better system, I don't go into the hospital - there's community programs. But, when people are at their most in need, it's always struck me that when I'm feeling hopeless and powerless and I'm sharing that deep dark secret, that I'm thinking that life isn't worth living, that your approach to me is that you lock me up and leave me on my own. And we talk very differently now about recovery and believing in people in recovery and supporting people but in fact that has not changed over the years.

[The videos transitions to a closeup of Dylan de la Rivière as he begins to speak. Then back to a view of both Dylan de la Rivière and Therese Claxton as he continues to speak.]

The system, it is really about placing me someplace whether it's in a room that's been locked or a boarding room or any kind of service. It's about placing me and just leaving me there it implies that that's where I belong and that's all I can expect. There's no growth there. It's just a simple definition that's the box and get in the box and stay there. It's a nicer box than it was 30 or 40 or 50 years ago but it's still a box.

[Therese Claxton begins to speak. The video transitions to the outside of a building with a sign reading “Krasman Centre” with Therese Claxton opening the door and walking inside. Then back to Dylan de la Rivière and Therese Claxton as she continues to speak. Then to a closeup of Therese Claxton.]

And I think that's where CSIs are out of the box because all you're asked when you walk into a CSI is your name and then you and then you decide, right, what you want to do, who you want to meet, what you want to be engaged in. My first CSI, which was the Craftsman Centre, was that total acceptance that, that welcoming that I had found some place where I belonged. They created that space for people that gives them and empowers them and allows them to do what they need to do for their own personal growth and wellness. I think that's what peer support does really, really well - it has different conversations with people.

[The video transitions back to both Dylan de la Rivière and Therese Claxton. Dylan de la Rivière begins to speak. Then to a room where Dylan de la Rivière is standing and speaking to Therese Claxton and an unidentified woman, both seated at a table.]

And in that conversation things like self-empowerment and self-advocacy and building self-esteem on real strengths and real accomplishments and taking on real responsibilities - all these things come out of these kinds of conversations and activities and engagements.

[The video transitions to a woman standing in front of a very large sign reading “Nothing about us, without is, is for us…” as soft piano music plays and Therese Claxton begins to speak. The video transitions back to a closeup of Therese Claxton. Then to a photo of a small group of people wearing yellow shirts and holding electric candles. Then to a photo of four women, smiling at the camera and holding a sign reading “Together we can IGNITE HOPE! Recovery Happens!”.]

Peer support in mental health came about, you know, during the period of the civil rights movement. We came together because people were being treated badly. They were being secluded and restrained. They were being overmedicated. Their rights were being taken away. Their stories were being co-opted. And so we came together to address that and what we could do about it. That's where we developed our principles of autonomy and respect and dignity.

[Out of the Box is a tribute to the strength and wisdom of the past, present and future members of OPDI]

[The video transitions back to Kelly Gottschling]

I celebrate the opportunity to be able to hug another human being and tell them that I love them and they tell me that they love me. And it can be honest and real and okay. And it's not a medical model and it's not a clinical model and it's not even always a community model. It just is real.

[Produced for Ontario Peer Development Initiative with thanks to the members, staff, board, and advisory committee. To find a peer support near you please visit]

[The video transitions back to Tyrone Gamble]

What the 25th is also about too is celebrating all that, the beauty that these organizations are and the beauty they bring out in each of each of us.

[Many thanks for the participation of members, staff and boards: Mental Health Network of Chatham Kent, Krasman Centre Richmond Hill, North York General Hospital Participants’ Council, Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa]

[The video transitions back to Sonja Cronkhite]

We've moved from a place where nobody wanted anything to do with us and we were just not getting very far and changing things to a place where everybody wants to steal what we're doing, I mean, you know, yes - it's a challenge it's also an amazing success.

[With many thanks for their research guidance: Donna Forget, True Self, North Bay, Allan Strong, Self Help Alliance, Michele Way, Peer Support Southeast Ontario, Barbara Frampton, Connect for Mental health, Southwestern Ontario, Allyson Theodorou, OPDI, Deborrah Sherman, OPDI]

[The video transitions back to Sonja Therese Claxton]

What I've learned isn't as an activist, it’s you have to celebrate the small successes and so it will be a moment or many moments of celebration but also recognition that the work goes on.

[Produced and Directed by: Sree Nallamothu and Laura Sky]

[Videographer and Sound Recordist: Sree Nallamothu. Editor: Sree Nallamothu]

[Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer: Daniel Samaan]

[Music by: Ray Guirguess and Jonathan Whalen]

[OPDI logo displays reading Celebrating 25 Years of Peer Support, Ontario Peer Development Initiative]

[Copyright Ontario Peer Development Initiative 2006]