SPIRIT aims at center for mentally ill | TheUnion.com

SPIRIT aims at center for mentally ill

SPIRIT, an organization founded by mental health peer counselors to bolster local services for the mentally ill, is seeking nonprofit status.

Established in 2001, SPIRIT’s mission is to provide support services for people dealing with mental illness in Nevada County, said peer counselor Don Sheard.

Sheard said the public is invited to attend an orientation Wednesday at the H.E.W. Building in Nevada City.

“We want the public to know that we exist and would like people to stop by and find out more,” said Sheard, who was diagnosed with critical depression a decade ago and with bi-polar disorder last year.

He said part of what SPIRIT is trying to do is raise funds for a peer-led drop-in center.

Sheard envisions a place within walking distance of downtown Grass Valley, where people with mental health issues can drop in, socialize and talk about their problems.

“They could see a peer counselor if they wanted or just socialize with people with similar challenges,” he said.

The peer counselors, who all have disorders of the own, help others find their own solutions and facilitate the healing process through listening and sharing of their personal tragedies and triumphs.

“We don’t claim to be psychiatrists or psychologists,” Sheard said. “We’re just counselors who understand the pain of mental diseases.”

With state funding to counties drying up, Sheard believes such a facility is necessary.

“The county supports us wholeheartedly, but can’t afford to run a program like this,” he said. “We want to establish a nonprofit organization to fund the services and needs the county cannot fulfill.”

The stigma surrounding mental illness, Sheard said, is the greatest barrier to people getting the help they need and the chance to better their lives.

A questionnaire recently distributed by SPIRIT revealed that a lot of people in the community would like to have a place to go where they can feel safe and not stigmatized, Sheard said.

“Mental illness affects everyone, and the community needs to step up and support the cause,” he said.

For more information, call the peer counselors at 265-1230, ext. 4006.


WHAT: SPIRIT orientation sessions

WHEN: Wednesday, 9 to 10 a.m., and noon to 1 p.m.

WHERE: The Mental Health modular unit on the east side of the H.E.W. Building, 10433 Willow Valley Road, Nevada City.

INFORMATION: 265-1230, ext. 4006.

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