The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that about one in four American adults suffers from some kind of mental disorder. Moreover, many of these adults deal with more than one mental disorder. Staggering statistics like these are why New York’s Fountain House/Clubhouse International are such necessary parts of their community.
Since its inception in 1948, Fountain House has worked tirelessly to enrich the lives of people living with mental illness. Their monumental efforts were recently recognized by being selected to receive the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/conrad_n._hilton_foundation>. The prize, which is awarded each year by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, recognizes nonprofit organizations that make extraordinary contributions. Prize guidelines state that the organization must alleviate human suffering in some measure, and that is certainly what Fountain House/Clubhouse International have worked to do for more than 50 years.
Fountain House/Clubhouse International workers have long recognized the problem of isolation among those with mental illness. Many of these people were living independently but with little sense of community. The result was sometimes stagnation and loneliness. Many people could be said to be surviving, but not truly living. Fountain House aims to change that by inspiring a community of members who work collaboratively to improve their lives and the lives of others. Fountain House programs help members to graduate from high school or complete a college degree. Other initiatives assist members to secure and maintain meaningful employment while others help to provide housing that is both safe and affordable. Fountain House also ensures that members have reliable access to preventative health care. A thriving Wellness Program encourages members to focus on healthy dietary choices and physical fitness.
The organization also works toward reducing the stigma that is often associated with mental illness. Helping members to find work and make community connections are just two ways that Fountain House works toward lessening isolation and the negative perspective on mental illness that often prevails in society.
Speaking for the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Hawley Hilton McAuliffe says that Fountain House/Clubhouse International was chosen to receive the $1.5 million award because committee members felt that although millions of people suffer from mental illness in the U.S., there has been little media focus on the problem. McAuliffe also noted that Fountain House was selected because of its ability to bring those with mental illness into a thriving community. School shootings, and the mental health of individuals who tend to commit these violent acts, were also a central concern of the committee.
Jason Hope greeted news of the award enthusiastically, saying, “Fountain House is a deserving organization that has served as a model for hundreds of other mental health assistance programs in America. Winning the Humanitarian Prize is a wonderful way to get the word out about mental health disorders and the help that is available to those who live with mental illness.”
The prize will be officially presented on October 27, 2014 in New York City.