Ypsi Mental Health Squad aims to create inclusive community for those living with mental illness

Ypsi Mental Health Squad, a grassroots peer support group for neurodivergent people and those living with mental illness, has already attracted over 200 members in the two months since it launched.

Founder Emy Deshotel is hoping to enrich the Facebook group further by hosting virtual discussions on the messaging platform Discord, as well as in-person meetups like the upcoming Puppy Therapy in the Park event from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 23 at Frog Island Park in Ypsi.

Deshotel says her own experience of trying to find community led her to create the Facebook group.

"I made a lot of meaningful friendships in psychiatric hospitals," she says. "Last year, I spent more than 25% of the year in psychiatric care. It's extremely difficult to find a meaningful community when you're in the hospital that much."

She looked into existing local support groups, but they didn't quite match what she was looking for. Some programs have stipulations about what diagnosis participants can have or how severe their mental illness could be.

"I wanted an all-inclusive community, so I started my own," she says.

So far, Deshotel has been making most of the posts to the group, encouraging others to share their experiences or resources. But she encourages others to share accomplishments, struggles, and requests for resources and advice. 

She says she recently added a Discord channel because there was a "huge calling for virtual events" from group members. She plans to host regular discussion groups, as well as games and trivia.

"We're not going to make meaningful changes in mental health care unless we share our own experiences," Deshotel says.

Deshotel says she hopes that others will provide similar mental health resources for minors, because Ypsi Mental Health Squad's virtual and in-person events are limited to those 18 and over. 

Learn more about the Ypsi Mental Health Squad here. Information on the Puppy Therapy event can be found here.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Emy Deshotel.