Anna Quon profiles New Beginnings Dartmouth, a community space where people living with mental illness can become connected to their community and be supported in recovery by their peers. It is also a place where they make friends and have fun.
A 2-Minute Story About New Beginnings Dartmouth
"Never let anybody tell you that it can't be done."
New Beginnings is a place of opportunity - and community - for adults who have been living with a mental illness.
Watch the video.
People living with mental illness know that our lives can fall apart when we become unwell. Some of us have lost relationships with friends and family, our homes and jobs, and/or our self-confidence and self-esteem.
There are places where people like us can make a fresh start and begin to rebuild our lives and ourselves again. New Beginnings Clubhouse, tucked into a historic building in downtown Dartmouth, is one such place.
New Beginnings Dartmouth is a Capital District Health Authority program that is based on the Fountain House model of psychosocial rehabilitation, meaning it is centred on the work-ordered day. Members all llive with serious and recurring mental illness. They are offered - but are not required to accept - the chance to participate in voluntary work in the clerical, kitchen and maintenance units. Members may also help plan social and recreational activities, do research, and explore employment while socializing, building new skills, making friends, and achieving personal goals.
Dartmouth resident Mary Rose Detcher says that staying home all the time isn’t good for her mental health. Coming to New Beginnings, she says, “keeps me away from my apartment, getting involved with staff and members, helping out.”
Susan Wells, a developmental worker, says New Beginnings has measurably improved the health of some of its members. She can think of two or three who were non-verbal when they began coming.
"In the year that I’ve been here working with them, I’ve noticed they have kind of come out of their shells."
“In the year that I’ve been here working with them, I’ve noticed they have kind of come out of their shells. This is a safe place for them,” she says.
That is, a place free of the prejudice and discrimination against people living with mental illness that members have often faced in the rest of society.
For Mary Rose, New Beginnings is a positive environment where she has learned to focus on her personal growth.
“ When I’m here, I try to keep my problems outside the club,” she says. She’s also learning how to accept constructive criticism. Mary Rose admits she tends to take on too much and is sometimes overwhelmed. At one time, if she heard someone tell her as much, she says, “I’d get up and walk out the door.”
But now she’s able to appreciate how those words help her. Even when she gets upset, she has learned to walk away and come back to the conversation five minutes later.
Mary Rose is also working toward her personal goal of getting paid employment and perhaps, in the future, working with the unit that helps members find and keep affordable housing. But for now she’s enjoying coming every weekday to New Beginnings.
“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” she says with a smile. “I make more every time I come."
Contact New Beginnings Clubhouse at 902-464-3588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
About Anna Quon
Anna is an accomplished freelance/creative writer and writing workshop facilitator. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She is passionate about many things, especially writing. It is through her writing, and her volunteer work with community organizations, that Anna honours the lives of people who, like her, are living with mental illness.
In 2008, Anna received the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Anna published her first novle titled Migration Songs which was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award.
Visit Anna's website.