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  • Amy Payne, CPS, Executive Director

Finding purpose. Finding Happiness.

Can a person that has mental illness experience happiness?

Some people believe that there is no hope for people with mental health conditions. They think that once a friend or family member develops mental health conditions, he or she will never be able to improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, or reach their full potential.

This is not true. Physically, the brain is part of your body just like any other part of your body. As with many disorders that effect other parts of the body, there are symptoms. These symptoms can often be managed, and people can and do live good lives. Managing symptoms occurs through a process of change.

At The Gathering Place, you might hear us say, “working on recovery.” That is what we call that process.

Hope is key to the recovery process.

The Gathering Place is all about peers. These are the people who have been there. They know the struggle because they have lived it too. When a person is struggling and comes here, they see that recovery is real and that there is hope.

To support a life in recovery, there are four areas that need to be addressed:

· Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.

· Home: Have a stable and safe place to live.

· Purpose: Engage in meaningful daily activities, such as a job or school, volunteering, caring for your family, or being creative. Work for independence, income, and resources to participate in society.

· Community: Build relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.” (

At the Gathering Place, we help provide people with some of the skills, supports and resources that can help in these 4 areas. Our community of peers are provided with the opportunities to attend peer support groups, have one-on-one conversations, and have help in developing support systems. They develop friendships, in a caring environment.

Our members realize right away that they are with people who understand (peers) and that they are not alone. This gives hope.

For the rest of this article, I am going to focus on purpose. Purpose has been shown to have many benefits. “In fact, scientists have shown that having a life purpose leads to fewer hospitalizations, lower odds of developing diabetes, and even a longer life (controlling for health-related behaviors). In Japan, this concept is called, “ikigai” or “life worth living” and may contribute to their high life expectancy of 84.2 years, 6 years over that of the United States. “(

One of the ways that we help people find purpose at The Gathering Place is through offering volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are very important to us. Without volunteers many, non-profits like us could not carry out their mission.

I have volunteered many times and find it to be quite rewarding. When I can do something to help another person, it gives me, what I call, “warm fuzzies.” Warm fuzzies, to me, are the feelings of accomplishment and pride that I get when I have made things a little better for someone else. I know what it is like to suffer and experience the hand of kindness reaching out to me.

As I watch our volunteers, I notice that they not only find their sense of purpose but often their self-esteem increases, and they are happier.

A “powerful sense of purpose, which in studies of the happiest people on earth, turns out to be key to happiness — and as a bonus, to a longer life. “(

Volunteers are priceless.

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