Nonprofit Spotlight: Painted Brain

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In January 2022, PennyLoafer donors collectively gave to Painted Brain!

The Rundown

  • Years founded: 2005

  • Leadership: Painted Brain was co-founded by Dave Leon (licensed clinical social worker with 20+ years experience), Rayshell Chambers (operations, grant writer), and Eli Israelian (software developer) all of whom, on top of bringing their unique skillsets to the org, have struggled personally with mental health challenges.

  • Issue they address: Isolation and stigma associated with mental health.

  • What they do: Run a peer-led (i.e. staff have lived experience with mental health challenges) model in Los Angeles, CA that provides connection and social supports to people with mental illnesses through arts and technology.

  • How they do it:

    • Operate a drop-in center with art space, tech space, and a clothing and art boutique.

    • Provide occupational therapy, crisis services, peer support services.

    • Provide employment + peer training to people with a history of mental health challenges (including digital literacy + coding classes).

    • Run art groups and showcase community artwork through their online store + magazine publication.

Why they were chosen

Painted Brain’s innovative peer-led model helps to flip the script on traditional hierarchies in mental healthcare. From the founders to part time staff, everyone there has experience with mental health challenges and can use that to shape inclusive programming and a supportive, stigma-free environment.

  • They are providing employment and training to people with a history of mental health challenges, strengthening the peer workforce.
  • They use arts and media to shift the conversation around mental health and showcase the creativity and skills of community members. For years, they published a magazine (now an online publication) featuring art and literature by therapists and mental health survivors.
  • During the pandemic, they quickly pivoted to offering online support groups and crisis support, digital training sessions, and promoting mental health awareness and advocacy through social platforms.
  • For more, watch this video about Painted Brain.

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What is peer support?

🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽 In behavioral health, a peer is someone who has experience living with a mental illness and/or addiction. And peer support is the “process of giving and receiving encouragement and assistance to achieve long-term recovery.” It’s people using their lived experience to help advocate for, educate, mentor and/or motivate people who are going through a similar situation.

🤝 Peer support is an effective and evidence-based practice, improving health outcomes especially for harder-to-reach populations. It has a “humanizing effect on care” and makes people feel validated and understood. Studies have found it reduces hospitalization rates and days spent in in-patient care.

📋 Peer support is used in many contexts, from the criminal justice system to housing services, mental health services and more. Many peers get additional training and certifications for this work.

If you enjoyed this and want to get involved, you can support the Mental Health cause on PennyLoafer, starting with as little as $5/month. Each month, you’ll support and learn about a different nonprofit working to make the world a healthier place.