Carl Mosier joined the ITE/MH Campaign as an Ambassador in February 2012. A Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) for the Advocacy Alliance, advocate at Clarks Summit State Hospital, and co-chair of the Northeast Regional Community Support Program (CSP), Carl has made the Campaign a regular part of his peer support work. Spotlight On spoke with Carl recently about the Campaign, its values, and incorporating them into every day.
You’ve been a tremendous Ambassador for the Campaign. Almost weekly, people join us at your encouragement. How did you come to be involved with ITE/MH?
I first heard about the Campaign at a PMHCA [Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association] conference a few years ago. I was interested in what I heard but didn’t get actively involved until a year or so later, when the Campaign held a train the trainer event in Harrisburg at the annual Advocates Conference. This conference brings together Advocates from all of the state hospitals to network and learn. I signed up to be an Ambassador at that event and have included the Campaign in my work ever since then. Whenever I present, in my work at the Hospital, or at CSP meetings, I include the Campaign. I encourage people to join as Ambassadors and help them sign up on the spot.
What is it about the Campaign that really resonates?
The values mean something to everyone, whether you have mental illness, know someone who does, or neither of these. They offer a way to bring the message of recovery outside of the mental health field.
In the state hospital, it’s also been really powerful to see people respond to being an Ambassador—to see the change that happens when they connect with others through their own personal experiences with mental illness. There’s a thing that happens in the hospital, I see it all the time…people are not asked to do much. There are craft activities or tossing beanbags or counting games—these activities don’t really ask people to give of themselves. There are not many opportunities for people in the hospital to do something that’s worthwhile of their time or that provides a feeling of self worth.
This Campaign does. Both at the Hospital and in the CSP meetings, people share the Campaign almost immediately. They feel more worthwhile…they can contribute to their community and support each other. More than arts and crafts, they share the messages to help someone else. You see people just going through their lives, but with this you see their eyes open up. They jump at the chance to connect with others through their own lived experiences. Give people the opportunity to do more…give them hope and possibility, that’s a major step in recovery.
Which values are most meaningful to you?
Hope and Connectedness are foundations for me. They are key to the recovery concept. If you can get a connection to someone or something that’s worthwhile to you—you can take more steps. And, with connection comes hope.
For years, I didn’t want to be associated with having a mental illness. I started in recovery for drugs and alcohol abuse. But once I accepted my mental illness …once I shared it with other people, a weight lifted for me. That’s when I really started moving forward in my recovery.
Hope, Connectedness, and responsibility are the three guiding principles for me. Without hope or connection to other people or something other than yourself, we cannot begin to take responsibility.
How do you incorporate the Campaign into your day-to-day interactions with people?
One thing I do that’s pretty simple, I always have ITE/MH cards with me. They are so easy to carry around. When I see people acting on the Campaign’s values, for example at the supermarket, I will acknowledge their action and give them a card. I thank them and explain why their actions are so remarkable. I then encourage them to visit the ITE/MH website for more information about the campaign. It isn’t always in the context of the mental health communities. Even at the grocery store or a coffee shop, when someone does something meaningful for someone else—something that’s supportive or encouraging—it’s nice to honor them.
What are their reactions?
For the most part people are honored. You can tell they recognize an uplifting moment is happening. Sometimes people get a glaze in their eyes. But even they take the information and listen to me. I like to think that this positive interaction will stay with them…and that someday, they will remember it or find the card at the bottom of their bag and be curious. Or that, the next time the news has a negative headline about mental illness, they’ll remember our positive encounter.
Thank you for your time and for being the Evidence.