May is Mental Health Month, and this year’s theme is about how our surroundings impact mental health. Nowhere is that more evident than at The Gathering Place, which has offered a safe and caring environment for people with serious and persistent mental illness for more than three decades. Glen, a member of The Gathering Place, shares how the clubhouse’s warm and welcoming atmosphere and staff have made all the difference in his mental health, and his life.
I have been coming to The Gathering Place for 11 years.
The clubhouse has helped change my life. I don’t feel alone anymore. I don’t feel abandoned anymore. I feel uplifted. The Gathering Place is such a beautiful place for me.
Being bipolar and schizophrenic, some days are hard. I used to hang out on street corners because I didn’t have anywhere to go. And when I came to The Gathering Place, it uplifted me, and it made me into a better person than I was. I used to be angry all of the time. And now I am not angry; I’m happy.
I am one of the first ones in the door of The Gathering Place in the morning. And when I come in, I do my work in the “Country Store.” I have learned a lot. I have learned how to run a cash register. I have learned how to count money properly. And I have learned how to give the proper change back to the members. When they come to the window, they always smile, and I smile back. And we treat each other with the utmost respect.
The Country Store is my safe space. I feel that the voices I hear, they can’t touch me when I’m in the store. They can’t bother me. If I am feeling bad, I go into the Country Store. I go there for maybe 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and it’s like, all my troubles, all my problems, they go away. Sometimes I go outside, and I feel safe by the garden, too. Especially when Mr. Bobby’s around, because I feel he is not going to let anything happen to me.
There’s another place I feel safe here at The Gathering Place, and that’s when I go sit in Miss Shalla’s office. She has a round table in her office. And I’ll go there and sit at that table, and I feel so safe and relaxed when I’m sitting there in her office, having a conversation with her.
I also like going to groups. My favorite group is Ms. Mary’s group (ReMIND), because this group supports me and helps with my bipolar.
And I enjoy giving tours of The Gathering Place. I want to give people the best tours they have ever had. And maybe two or three days later, I see them coming back through the front door, and it is something that I said, or something they saw that they liked, and they come back. And when they come back they have a smile on their face.
I am grateful for that. That’s the biggest part that I like here at the clubhouse — encouraging people — and serving people out of the Country Store.
The Gathering Place has been so amazing to me. And so uplifting to me. If it were here seven days a week, I would be here seven days. I am just truly grateful to be around people like me, and around the staff, and to have a place that I can come to five days a week.