JCS@WORK: Community Cottages – Adding Layers to Life

The antiquated draconian textbook chapters that type of the practices used to treat mental illness continue to haunt today. Despite a new wave and strides in the treatment of mental illness a hint of these perceptions continues to cast a shadow on the ideas, beliefs and attitudes towards persons living with mental health challenges and casts a pallor on stigma.

For the survivors a psychiatric diagnosis can spill a Pandora’s Box of symptoms with debilitating outcomes. Thanks to modern treatments, approaches to medication, paradigms, knowledge and research, persons with mental illness are able to achieve and maintain good and/or improved mental health and lead meaningful lives.

While Therapies such as psychological/ psychotherapeutic, medication and ECT are crucial components in patient care. Equally important is the quest to recognise a holistic, humanistic, strengths based, active living, rights to self-determination, collaborative and empowering framework which is critical in the architecture of a multidisciplinary programme for mental health care users. JCS assists and supports persons with potential or actual limiting mental health conditions to strive to achieve this and live optimally.

One of the ways that the organisation achieves this is in the form of group homes aka JCS Community Cottages – a residential mental health facility licensed with the Department of Health. Here provision is made for the basic needs of food and shelter in a neighbourhood blended communal living structure in two separate homes that stream the needs of 12 residents within an infrastructure of supportive services. This includes board and lodging, food, laundry, domestic/ care and associated services. All this while merging needs for, social work services, which includes individual case management and counselling, group work, community projects and 24 hour crisis intervention. Services stretch towards spiritual enrichment, a service center that encompasses arts/crafts, meaningful occupation/employment initiatives, computer Wi-Fi /internet access, social hub and library.

These homes surreptitiously provide for an intricate network of needs which includes social interaction, safety (psychological and physical), a sense of purpose and belonging within the least restrictive environment. Here communal living blends heterogeneity into homogeneity. A cohesive cohort climbing Maslow’s self- actualization hierarchy ladder where the ascent stumbles upon meeting higher order needs. This achievement is branded with gaining information and understanding through social comparison, definition of a sense of self and social identity. A cluster that binds, sustains, supports and guides, coating self-esteem and staving off disquieting feelings of self-worth.

A further rung on the ladder and known to promote emotional health – recreational activities for the residents not only provide an escape from the grip of boredom and the tentacles of isolation but integrate socially valued normal activities and provide a meaningful social role. These activities promote personal identity, spirituality, positive emotions, harmony, social connectedness, development of coping/life skills, promote healing, personal growth and development and physical and mental health. Recreation and stimulation concocts this non biomedical antidepressant which infuses positive emotions and experiences.

Jewish Community Services aspires to develop further group homes with differing levels of care, composition and criteria. Critically needed resources which could encompass the youth and substance abuse transitioning. A useful invention of homes for transition and permanency. A safe haven to actualise the organisation’s rich mandate to ensure, maintain and enhance the well-being and protection of persons experiencing mental illness in the community.

In the rhetoric of the UN’s Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. “Persons with disabilities have the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health ,without discrimination on the basis of disability” (Stettin 2014). The provision of relevant and appropriate housing programs such as Jewish Community Services’ Community Cottages remains a crucial contributing factor towards the realisation thereof.

By Zia Adler

If you would like to bring colour and infuse a critical layer to the lives of others and become involved or contribute in any manner please contact Zia Adler on 021 462 5520 or email zia@jcs.org.za.

Visit JCS website: www.jcs.org.za

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