Schizophrenics Anonymous (SA) is a network of peer support groups that aid recovery for persons with schizophrenia and related psychiatric brain illnesses with psychotic features at no cost to the individual in recovery. Over three million people in the United States are diagnosed with schizophrenia and six million are diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder, making these related disorders a leading cause of disability. Recovery is possible through treatment, but unfortunately less than 50% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia have received treatment.
SA encourages members to take positive steps toward recovery, provides them with the latest information about schizophrenia, restores dignity and a sense of purpose in people working for recovery, and offers fellowship and positive support in order to achieve good health. The purpose of SA is:
1. To help restore dignity and sense of purpose for persons who are working for recovery from schizophrenia-related brain disorders.
2. To offer fellowship, positive support, and companionship in order to achieve good mental health.
3. To improve our own attitudes about our lives and our illness.
4. To provide members with latest information regarding schizophrenia-related brain disorders
5. To encourage members to take positive steps towards recovery from the illness.
SA is the only peer-run support group for individuals living with schizophrenia and related brain disorders. Individuals living with these conditions have experiences that are difficult for most people to understand. Participants often report that SA groups are the only place in which they feel comfortable speaking openly about their hallucinations and delusions. SA provides participants with the support needed to work towards their highest potential, recognizing that the path to recovery is different for everyone.
Over the past 29 years, SA has grown from one local Detroit-based group into an international support network for thousands of individuals. Currently, there are over 150 groups located throughout 31 states, as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Uruguay, India and Venezuela. SA provides the only Conference Call Groups for individuals diagnosed with a schizophrenia-related disorder. Conference Call Groups are available internationally and accessible to individuals unable to attend a local group.
Other peer-to-peer networks do not provide participants with the same level of autonomy as SA. SA is organized and managed by persons experiencing schizophrenia or a related brain disorder, and administered in partnership with SARDAA. SARDAA provides the platform for communication (i.e. conference calls, SA groups, social networking), sponsors material development and dissemination, and supports the SA Coordinator. However, diagnosed individuals make all decisions regarding SA material content and group leadership and management. In fact, SA Group Leaders across the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, and Germany worked collaboratively to create the new edition of the SA Group Leaders’ Manual.
SARDAA also coordinates monthly Spirit of SA Meetings, during which SA members discuss group-related issues. Items may include: deciding “administrative details” such as the regular meeting date, time, and location; how to enhance the meeting format, content, or direction; how the promote the group to the public; or planning social functions.
SARDAA employs various strategies to ensure the financially sustainability of the organization and the SA program. SARDAA holds several fundraisers throughout the year. We also send quarterly appeals to supporters to raise additional general operating dollars. Moreover, SARDAA has a dedicated volunteer grant team, which submits funding proposals to various foundation and corporate funders. We are also proud to report that100% of SARDAA’s Board of Directors makes financial contributions to the organization each year.
Over the years, SA has developed relationships with community organizations and faith-based organizations that offer space free of cost for SA groups to hold meetings. SARDAA holds regular awareness events to expand its network of volunteers and community partners. SARDAA remains dedicated to implementing a comprehensive fundraising plan that will sustain and cement its ability to offer supportive programing, including SA groups, to individuals living with schizophrenia and other related brain disorders.
At its essence, SA is a replicable program and has provided support for individuals working towards recovery for 30 years. SA has replicated internationally using various communications methods including face-to-face meetings, conference calls, and Skype. It has also been adapted to address the needs of various populations and environments (i.e. college campuses, secured facilities).
The member manual provides a comprehensive guide for meetings in a user-friendly format. SA meeting formats vary according to members’ preferences and the leader’s style. The group determines the actual content of the meeting, though the Six Steps remain the “heart and soul” of the meeting.
SARDAA administers annual surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of SA Groups. Please see findings from our 2013 survey below:
· 85% of SA members find SA meetings very helpful
· 82% of SA members reported that SA meetings mad them feel less alone
· 79% of SA members reported that SA meetings helped them learn more about schizophrenia
· 77% of SA members reported that SA meetings helped them make friends and improve their social life
· 76% of SA members reported that SA meetings helped them manage the symptoms of their illness
SARDAA also measures the growth of its peer-to-peer network by collecting new group registration information and tracking it on the SARDAA website. Moreover, volunteers contact Group Leaders quarterly to confirm group statistics.