Two years ago, I founded a very small, private online women’s support group called S.I.S.T.E.R.S. (Sisters in Survival: Transition, Emotion, Recovery, Support). Still small, but now over 50 members, from twelve different states, all demographics in age, religion, profession & life experience. Our youngest member is 21, the oldest is presently 84, but we think she may outlive us all! SISTERS is about encouraging camaraderie & emotional support in a judgement free zone, finding the funny and just being available for each other. It is my hope to carry that forward here, not just for women, of course, but to anyone living with mental illness, or knowing someone who does. Not everyone in group lives with mental illness, but most know or love someone who does. Most days, we just have encouraging or funny posts. (Here at WisdomWithin, we also focus on education, self-advocacy, and wellness in recovery.) But when a member reaches out for help in the group, the responses are genuine, open, heartfelt and very prompt. The group is there for each other, knowing full well they don’t have to agree with everyone else; they are there to support each other experiencing life in chaos. Not only mental health chaos, but just life chaos. We have each others backs, and we know we have a safe place to speak. There has never been a post removed, there has never been a negative comment or report. We must be doing something right.
Out of, and since that humble beginning, I have become a NY Certified Peer Specialist (NYCPS – more about that later) in mental health, and have been working to bring peer support to the larger community. I live in western New York. (No, not the big apple city way downstate, where they drop the ball on New Year’s Eve every year.) Western New York state is where we have Niagara Falls and vineyards, farming and industry, technology, great universities, hospitals, museums and culture as diverse and able as NYC, just in a comparatively much more suburban existence. (NOTE: You do not need to live in NY for this site to be useful for you! Many states have even more online resources, but you’ll get some good starting points here!) This site provides real information for the newly diagnosed, for their families and friends.
Why Do We Need this Site?
Some folks with mental health conditions can become somewhat isolated, just by the very nature of their illness. That’s very common. Some may only be able to seek help online in the early stages. But, where to go? What’s legitimate? Where can I find some basic help and info all in one place, in a way that’s manageable and understandable and useful? Especially if a person is struggling. Having a go-to resource that affirms we are never in this alone, can make a huge difference for someone who truly believes there is no one else – who knows how they feel, or what they are going through.
While NY as a whole is a bit behind some other states in Mental Health care (and the new and upcoming field of Peer Support in mental health), the Big Apple is the ONLY region of NY currently utilizing peer support as part of their overall mental health system. That means relatively few openings for the rest of us upstate, who have been trained to do peer support work. So, rather than just wait for more opportunity to grow in my home community, and to do the work I feel called to, I decided to develop WisdomWithin, as sort of an upspin of our wonderful (but private) SISTERS group; offering a safe space, real information, links to legitimate resources to the greater community (not only for women), and focused with support & educational purpose; a real starting point for those facing mental illness, and for those who love them.
As WisdomWithin premieres officially on January 11th, 2017, the two-year anniversary of our SISTERS group founding, I welcome this opportunity to thank all of those wonderful women, for their support, their participation, their willingness to be there in good times and bad, with their wisdom, experience, common sense, and occasionally raucous sense of humor. I am forever grateful, and this space is dedicated to each and every one of them. (The group isn’t going away either! SISTERS happily chugs along as a private entity.) WisdomWithin is formed to expand support to the greater community, even if only one little corner of it at a time. We look forward to your participation, your feedback, suggestions, articles, questions, etc. We look to a New Year, with purpose, with enthusiasm, and with HOPE. (H.O.P.E. – “Hold On. Pain Ends.)
So, welcome to WisdomWithin; jump in, look around our site! Click stuff! We aren’t bogged down with pop ups to slow your exploration. Let us know what you think! Lots of things to check out already, lots more in the works! We are here for you! We don’t have all the answers, but we know how to help you look for them! Wishing you all WELLNESS!
Kathleen (Kathy) Surline, NYCPS