Coalition Member Spotlight: Clubhouse International/Fountain House
All over the world, people living with mental illness can face issues such as inadequate healthcare, stigma against disability, and lack of education, which contribute to their disenfranchisement and vulnerability to inhumane treatment. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), people living with serious mental illness have a life expectancy that is 10-20 years shorter than average. They are not only ostracized by their communities, but are likely to be discriminated against for employment, education, civic engagement, and basic necessities such as food and shelter. Without access to employment and basic needs, certain populations of people with mental illness live in extreme cases of poverty and cannot access the appropriate resources for help.
At the forefront of the work to empower men, women and children living with mental illness are Clubhouse International and Fountain House. These organizations were jointly awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2014 for their dedication to providing opportunities and recovery services for men, women, and children living with mental illness. With more than 340 clubhouses in 320 countries, including the United States, Clubhouse International and Fountain House have helped over 100,000 people overcome the challenges of unemployment, abuse, and isolation.
Founded in 1948 in New York City, Fountain House was the first Clubhouse established. The organization now serves over 1,300 members through community mental health programs that are based on the “Clubhouse” working community model that it pioneered. This Clubhouse model is distinguished from other programs that serve people with mental illness by its core dependence on the voluntary participation of its members. Members play a critical role in the daily operations of the organization. The opportunity to live, work, and learn within a community and environment of mutual support empowers members to make progress towards achieving their employment and educational goals. As a template for Clubhouse organizations all over the world, Fountain House continues to be an example for organizations focusing on mental health in leadership development, education, advocacy, and research on the integration of people with mental illness into society.
Recently, Fountain House partnered with WHO to establish a series of guidelines and best practices to extend and improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness. Resources produced under this partnership include articles and reports, as well as upcoming events around the subject of excess mortality in persons living with serious mental illness. These guidelines will be implemented by governments and health care professionals around the world. Read more about this initiative here.
The growing number of Clubhouses around the world demonstrates that people with living mental illness have a meaningful place in society, and deserve the right to education, employment, and stability. Clubhouse International does not define their programming as treatment, but a partnership where people reclaim their futures in a supportive, recovery-based community. Clubhouse International believes in the possibility for a time where “there will one day be clubhouses in the cities and towns of every country in the world.” In order to obtain that vision, Clubhouse International developed a program model operating on standards proven to be effective in its implementation all over the world.
The Clubhouse model is grounded in a philosophy that has high expectations for its members with the understanding that community engagement is an important addition to psychiatric and medical treatment. Through local businesses, Clubhouse provides paid employment for its members, and offers educational and social programming that promotes members’ sense of self-worth, confidence, and purpose.
Clubhouse International/Fountain House and the Hilton Prize Coalition
Recently, Clubhouse International participated in a Monitoring & Evaluation capacity building survey led by PATH under the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Collaborative Models program, along with BRAC, Casa Alianza/Covenant House, HelpAge International, and Landesa. The purpose of the survey was to inform the Coalition’s monitoring and evaluation strategy, and to identify opportunities to leverage the member organizations’ capacity building initiatives.
In addition to Clubhouse International’s role in the Collaborative Models program, President Kenn Dudek of Fountain House was featured in the Coalition’s Leading Thoughts series under the its Storytelling Program. This series features leaders of Hilton Prize Laureate organizations sharing lessons learned from their experiences in global development and humanitarian aid. During his interview, Dudek describes how people with mental illness are treated as an illness rather than a person with an illness, and shares how the Clubhouse model pioneered by Fountain House is one that stresses empowerment and advocating for the agency of people often left unheard due to the inequalities and stigmas towards mental illness in current health institutions. Watch the video here.