Hey film fans!

The Initiative decided it was high time to get out of their somewhat damp, Brisbane office, pile into an unmarked van, and head out in search of adventure and people in need. Think SuperFriends without the budget for invisible jets and state of the art 70’s screen wipes. Opportunity struck in the form of an organization called Stepping Stone Clubhouse; one of 300 clubhouses across the globe that is working to increase independence, improve the quality of life, and promote inclusion for children and adults with mental illness.

Jared, our umbrella-wielding protagonist, attends such a clubhouse that helps him along his journey! We were sold on the chance to help out, and get the inside scoop on how these clubhouses work…and once we learned of the fully stocked cafe operating within the clubhouse walls, we couldn’t dive into the van fast enough!

We arrived and we were ushered into the lobby to sign in. Some of us eyed the clubhouse’s awards from the board of mental health hanging proudly on the wall, while others of us struggled with the concept that words could be created with something as archaic as a pen, as it had been a while since our fingers were parted from a cold keyboard. We were quickly greeted warmly and whisked away on a tour throughout the various rooms and departments that made up the Stepping Stone facility. It was explained to us that the staff and members worked alongside each other in every aspect and that both were present at every meeting and event. The lot of us couldn’t pick out member from staff. Gone were the white coats, clipboards, psychobabble, and perhaps most notably the vague smell of formaldehyde held by hospitals, dentists offices, and public restrooms. When I asked our guide about Stepping Stone’s overall philosophy on mental health, she just shrugged and said, “We find if we treat people like people, they have the capacity to find healing for themselves. We provide a safe community and opportunities; our members do the rest. It’s not rocket science.” Rocket science no. Revolutionary…yes.

Over the course of our day, we worked alongside members becoming baristas, farmers, graphic designers, chefs, accountants, and even crime scene investigators after a young hen met her untimely demise under a bucket she found herself trapped in (at this time, no fowl play is suspected). After an awesome lunch of curried sausages, mashed potatoes and broccoli, we went on a long walk around the clubhouse where I got to chat a little more with a member of staff. It turns out, he had spent his time in uni studying psychology, and he told me, “The problem with traditional psychology is that it assumes that society is healthy and anyone even remotely outside that model is sick. The world is slowly starting to realize that that might not be the case.”

The concept that healing can best occur in a supportive community is gaining momentum, and clubhouses are continuing to pop up all over the world.

By the time we left, we had made some great friends and better understood how a community like the one featured in The Umbrella can break away the feeling of isolation surrounding mental illness, and lead individuals like Jared toward long, fulfilling lives.

…and stayed tuned right here for more from The Umbrella.

Stay Classy,

-Zakk Arnold

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