Everyone has a “safe” place they can retreat to when times are tough, right?
Maybe it’s a quiet spot at home where you can sip a relaxing drink and unwind the tension of the day.
Perhaps it’s under a cozy quilt, shared with a furry, loyal friend.
Or it could be the warm and comforting embrace of a loved one - your shield from the world outside.
Now, imagine for a moment you had none of those.
How would you feel?
Where would you go?
Who would seek out?
Now, think of what it would be like to endure that with the additional weight of mental illness.
When the Riverview Psychiatric Hospital was in the midst of its phased shut down during the early 1970s, a group of volunteers in the Tri-Cities area knew those being released would not have that safe place. They knew that the newly released patients would require the support of a caring community, and thus New View Society was born.
And since 1973 it has provided for those challenged by severe and persistent mental illness through social/recreational programming, life skills development, educational/vocational and employment support, and community living support, says Tiffany Melius, executive director of New View Society.
Today, with funding from the local health authority and BC Housing, the organization has grown to also provide housing to 51 people in the area, employ over 35 staff, and provide services to over 600 unique individuals in the Tri-Cities with a diagnosed mental illness.
“There was a huge amount of understanding, compassion and caring in the Tri-Cities that, instead of sending people elsewhere, created a safe place to care for people in their home community,” Meliussays.
“Our vision is community health through mental health. We believe there can’t be mental health without community, and a community is healthier if we look after those people who are struggling.”
For example, if employment is an obstacle, New View runs an in-house supported employment/social enterprise hybrid program - One Stop Assembly, a packaging business.
“We employ our members who are not quite ready to get a job in the general employment market,” Melius says.
“Sometimes, they just need the confidence to overcome their anxiety in seeking market employment. What they get with us is an environment where people have experience working with those with mental illness. And that provides a special, safe place when a day does not go well.
“On that day, they can be here at New View and know it’s a safe place for them to come,” Melius says.