Magnolia Clubhouse Gets People With Mental Illness Out Of Isolation

“It was just lying in the bed, and then it was a week, then next you look up it's a month, then it's a year and you're just lying there. Life's just passing you by.”

Tiffany, who struggles with severe depression and anxiety, described her life before she found Magnolia Clubhouse. “Sometimes you struggle with basic things, like getting dressed.”

She’s now an active member of the Clubhouse – giving tours to new members, answering phones, practicing yoga and meditation, and going for lunchtime walks.

“Mental illness is a very undertreated and under-resourced area. About one in four people experience mental illness and less than half get treatment,” said Lori D’Angelo, Ph.D., Executive Director of Magnolia Clubhouse. “And when they do get treatment it's primarily medication but people often live in isolation and have nothing to do and no community.”

That’s the void in mental health treatment that Magnolia Clubhouse has been attempting to fill since it was founded in 1961: Treating people with mental illness like people – in need of community and purpose.

“I think a person is more than a receptacle for food and healthcare. I think I have something to contribute to other people and I think Magnolia is facilitating me in sharing my gifts,” said Ben, a member who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression.

“Magnolia Clubhouse is a club for people who live with mental illness,” said D’Angelo. “It provides a place where people can grow and can really focus on having a life and not just on the symptoms of their illness.”

With support from a small staff, members who pay $1 a day run the club – preparing a daily lunch, manning the reception desk, cleaning, operating a high-end resale shop, doing data entry and producing a daily news show, which airs on televisions throughout the club in the afternoon.

A Magnolia Clubhouse member files a sports report in the recently-renovated television studio. Members create a daily newscast that airs throughout the Clubhouse after lunch.     

 

“By design, the members are needed to operate the club. Each member chooses what kind of work they want to engage in,” said Dr. D’Angelo.  

“I play a big role here,” said Tiffany. “Whatever they need me to do I'm pretty much doing it.”

According to D’Angelo, the communal work allows members to form relationships – and the bonds between members of the Clubhouse are even more powerful because of their shared struggles.  

“Most of the people that are in my circle, we know when someone’s going through something. Sometimes they just want a hug, or sometimes they just want you to listen,” said Tiffany.

Recent fundraising success means that even more bonds will form at Magnolia this year. Thanks to a $4 million capital campaign and renovation, Magnolia Clubhouse is expanding the number of people it can serve daily from 75 to more than 100.

One of two turn-of-the-century houses that makes up Magnolia Clubhouse.

 

In addition to renovating every floor of their main buildings – two turn-of-the-century homes located in University Circle – they’ve also turned an old carriage house into a health clinic for primary and psychiatric care.

“People that live with mental illness generally have lifespans that are 25 to 30 years shorter than other people and that's because of conditions that could have been treated,” said D’Angelo. “So we focused on also providing that clinic to change that.”

In a world where people with mental illness are often seen as frightening or hopelesss, these renovations really show  members that they are valued, said D’Angelo: 

“People who live with mental illness are people first.”

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