There is a prevailing stigma around mental illnesses. As a result, people who suffer from mental health problems feel ostracized and persecuted for their sufferings. Many of them defaulted to hiding their issues, which only leads to the progression of their mental problems.
Mental health advocates Erin Duffy and Lori Sevigny hope to change this. The two specialists started a project called Our Stories Our Space, a community for people who face mental health challenges that look for a place where they can freely express themselves and not face judgment or retaliation.
“I felt this was needed, since there was really nothing like it,” shares Erin. The group started as a Facebook Group for people to share their stories in the way that they felt was their truth. Later on, the project grew into a full-fledged website, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. The movement seeks to create a safe online space for people who struggle with depression, clinical disorders, and other mental illnesses. Through the website, members of the community get access to free resources, events, and a virtual support group.
Both Erin and Lori have worked in the mental health system. Erin is a peer specialist and mental health advocate. Lori is a retired registered nurse and a psychiatric survivor herself. Accordingly, they understand the struggles, pain points, and needs of people who struggle with their mental health. Erin and Lori believe that each person that goes through the system is a unique individual, but to them, this is more an opportunity than a concern. With the uniqueness of every individual comes a fresh perspective that adds color and value to the group. Whether it’s their experiences, opinions, and personality, each person who joins the community brings a new approach to life.
Many members of the group have had negative experiences with treatments that were harmful, whether physical or emotional. The community seeks to counter that by providing nothing but a system of safety and acceptance for all that come seeking refuge, even if it’s just an online experience.
“It is not our decision to make what others define as their crisis. That’s up to the individual,” shares Erin about the group’s system. “We also strive to meet people where they are. We’ve had several members privately message either of us and share their story or parts of it because that is what’s safest to them at the moment. We make it a point to check the group often so we’re not missing a post, comment, or private message.”
Looking to the future, Erin and Lori hope to one day publish a book that tells the stories of their followers and members. Through the exercise, they hope to empower others by giving them a place to share their story as they empower themselves to do the same. The group continues to grow in size, as they have helped over a hundred people by providing them a safe space to share their pains and struggles freely.
Through the Our Stories Our Space, the founders hope to create more opportunities for people who struggle with mental illness to receive feedback and support without having to worry about being negatively perceived by others. The group also hopes to extend their support to families and friends of people with mental illness to help them through the process of understanding their loved ones as well.