Through DukeEngage, I’ve had the unique opportunity to live and work in Durham, NC, and Durham, England for several weeks. In both cities, I partnered with nonprofit organizations which aid the mentally ill citizens of each respective area. Working with these nonprofits has been a deeply humanizing experience which has greatly deepened my knowledge of mental illness and the challenges endured by the mentally ill. I worked with Threshold Clubhouse in NC and the Waddington Street Centre in England. Though both nonprofits provide essential services to the mentally ill, their approaches and overall goals differ significantly.
Threshold Clubhouse is located in the historic Wellons Village area of North East Central Durham, NC and most of its members come from rough socioeconomic situations. Though they may receive some aid from Social Security, Medicare, etc, this is often not enough to ensure access to medication nor a good lifestyle. Threshold provides members with valuable education and occupational training to help them find employment and improve their quality of life. It also provides members with a space to meet similar people and ease the social isolation often imposed by mental illness. Threshold expects that employment will improve the economic situation of its members, thereby making their mental illness more manageable.
The Waddington Street Centre is located near the city center of Durham, England. Due to the NHS and other social programs, most of the mentally ill in Durham receive low-cost medical care and a good standard of living. However, the issue of social isolation remains. Thus, the Waddington Street Centre provides an inclusive environment in which service users can partake in recreational activities, meet new people, and hopefully ease the conditions of their mental illness. The Centre provides arts and crafts activities, music lessons, and physical activities for its service users. Through such activities, the Centre hopes that service users can improve their confidence and successfully re-enter society.
Though Threshold and the Waddington Street Centre may differ, working with them has been a uniquely rewarding experience. I felt welcomed by the staff at each nonprofit, and I found the members to be kind and genuine people. My summer with DukeEngage has completely transformed my views on mental illness, and I encourage anyone to volunteer and support the mentally ill.