Shatil is thrilled to announce that our consultee, Lishma, an organization of and for people coping with psychiatric disability, received the Health Minister’s Award for the Promotion of Health Rights for its Hospital Peers Specialists Project. The unique project places people with psychiatric disabilities in mental hospitals as staff that act as liaisons between patients, families and medical staff.
“We were very happy to get the prize because it is recognition on the part of the medical establishment for an innovative mental health program that works,” said Lishma Director, Tammy Matzlavi.
The project got an excellent evaluation from the Szold Institute that showed that the perceptions of hospital staff changed and patients’ sense of wellbeing improved. The evaluation also found a significant decrease in problematic behaviors such as restraining patients to their beds.
Matzlavi says that “copers” as people coping with mental health challenges are known here, are the weakest link in Israeli society. Lishma was established in order to represent and fight for the rights of this “invisible” population.
“With all the credit to mental health professionals,” said Matzlavi, “there is nothing like someone who has been there to give inspiration and hope to people who are hospitalized.”
Pinto Mimun, a former psychiatric patient at the Center for Mental Health in Be’er Sheva, is now the project coordinator for Peer Specialists there. “I was in closed ward there 12 years ago – a very difficult experience – and the very fact that I shared the experience patients are now going through, and recovered from it, means that we can have a dialogue as equals,” he said in a film produced about by the Society for Patients’ Rights in Israel, which was a partner in presenting the award.
Originally funded by Social Security, the project is now supported by the Ministry of Health, which would like to expand Peer Specialists from the two hospitals in which it currently works to all of Israel’s psychiatric hospitals.
Matzlavi says that Shatil consultant Patrick Levy, who has been guiding Lishma for years, was a partner in developing the project and she is extremely grateful for his help.
“I’m in a completely different place as director than I was in four years ago when I started, and that’s due to the work with Patrick,” she said. “He helps us with proper management and use of funds, program and resource development, budget preparation, and more. He’s another pair of experienced eyes that examines what we do and gives us good advice. I wouldn’t want to give up Patrick!”