The purpose of this paper is to outline the reflections of a person with lived experience of a severe mental illness (SMI) and former peer support worker in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, who has also worked for seven years in mental health research. It describes a tendency of resources and services to create ghettos of people with SMIs by failing to support the integration of people with SMIs into the community at large or in exploring options for meaningful, fulfilling occupation, reinforcing social exclusion and ghettoization.
This paper shows a reflective and narrative account of personal experiences and observations of the ghettoizing tendency in mental health services.
Mental healthcare professionals tend to support people with SMIs in engaging activities within resources for the mentally ill, and not in carrying out activities in the community at large. The range of activities offered is limited, an obstacle to finding meaningful, fulfilling occupation. Harmful psychological effects include self-stigma, low self-esteem and a sense of marginalization, generating a ghettoized mentality. The difficulties encountered in an effort to leave the mental health ghetto are touched on with examples of how to overcome them.
The need for professional support for social integration of people with SMIs is identified, which could ultimately favor social inclusion of people with SMIs.
It is written from the perspective of a user and provider of mental health services, who also has seven years’ experience in mental health research.