It is easy to get caught up with medication and therapy appointments, but most people do not recover through any one action alone. A balanced mind still needs opportunities to practice skills learned in therapy through meaningful interactions with the world around them. Recovery is best achieved when a full treatment plan promotes inclusion and connection through community involvement and peer support. Talk with your loved one and help them determine how they would like to engage with those around them.

Community Inclusion

Community inclusion is increasingly being recognized as one of the most important concepts for fostering and assessing the recovery of people with mental illness. Studies show that re-connection with society promotes recovery and decreases the chance of relapse.

Community inclusion means that all people, regardless of their health care needs, have the right to be respected as members of their communities. Those with mental illness, just like everyone else, should have the right to participate in recreational activities in neighborhood settings, work at jobs in the community that pay a competitive wage, explore and use their skills and abilities to the fullest, and pursue educational opportunities with their peers.

People with mental illnesses face a lack of community inclusion made worse by common hinderances such as transportation/location, financial barriers, access to services, stigma or discrimination, and physical issues.

A common struggle for caregivers who are trying to get their loved ones reengaged with the community is a broad lack of support outside the family and few resources available to those in need.

Peer support and other forms of community engagement can close the gap between people with mental illness and their surroundings. The feeling that they have purpose and belong to something bigger than themselves can play a critical role in the recovery of loved ones.

A 2016 survey by Mental Health America (MHA) surveyed caregivers on the eight domains of community inclusion. Here are some of the results:

Peer Support

Peer support offers individuals living with a mental illness the opportunity to connect with someone like them, who understands them. Rooted heavily in themes of trust and compatibility, peer support specialists are trained to teach skills, and help individuals in recovery lead a meaningful life in their community. Peers can help educate, mentor, and motivate your loved one by relating their own unique experience living with mental health conditions to that of your loved one.

Peer support has been found to be related to the following health outcomes and benefits:

Peer support can help your loved one learn skills, give them the support they need, and promote inclusion in their community to achieve a full and satisfying life.

It can be hard for caregivers to connect with their loved ones if they don’t have the same first-hand experiences as them. It is important to remember that just because you may not be able to relate with your loved one like you wish or feel you should, it does not make you any less valuable for that person, nor does it undermine your relationship with them.

Contact your local MHA affiliate to get information about peer support groups, drop-in centers or peer respites in your area at