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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Consumer/survivor-run businesses : community economic development and self-help for people with a history of mental illness Kerr, David George


Consumer/survivor-run businesses (CSRB's) are businesses in which people with a history of mental illness play a role in developing and managing the business. Key aspects of this type of activity include flexibility in working hours, and some form of democratic control over the business. Consumer/survivor-run businesses employ aspects of both community economic development and self-help for people with a history of mental illness. These businesses act as an alternative form of vocational rehabilitation for people with a history of mental illness. The predominant forms of vocational rehabilitation, such as sheltered work, employment preparation programs, transitional employment, and supported employment are often beneficial, but are not without limitations. Dependency on professionalized services, stagnation in entry-level jobs, and a lack of independence are some of the limitations described in the literature. Five cases of CSRB's from across Canada are analyzed. From the literature reviewed and the experiences of these cases, constraints faced by CSRB's and opportunities presented for support to them through public policy are discussed. The constraints included (i) bureaucratic restrictions that limit what consumer/survivors may earn on top of their disability pensions; (ii) attitudes of the general public, namely the stigma of mental illness; (iii) attitudes of mental health professionals, who hold to a 'service paradigm'; (iv) problems inherent in the development of alternative settings, and (v) the drift towards professionalism often experienced by alternative settings.

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