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Clubhouse Atlanta:

Stories from the Heart!

The long awaited answer to my prayers.

Four years ago, I partnered with my NAMI pal, Bill McClung, to learn more about an organization we had discovered in our mental health advocacy work, Clubhouse International.  We traveled with a group to Greenville, SC to visit a premier Clubhouse, Gateway, to see for ourselves how a day in a Clubhouse operates.  We were very impressed and immediately sold on the concept.  Hence, Bill and I began making our plans to start one in the Atlanta area.  I thought, finally, a place that made sense and just might be the answer for my son and for the many individuals like him.

My story in mental health advocacy started over 30 years ago.  My son, Bo, was, and still is my motivator.  In his years of struggles and trying to navigate the world each day, we learned a whole lot about the mental health system.  We found little to offer, but we sure did try!   Bo was in many placements, too numerous to count.  Each one promised assurance of healing, rehab and recovery.  I am confident in saying that in our experience, we found that most of the treatment programs we encountered were synthetic and stifled rather than promoted a person’s self-esteem, strengths and abilities.

Bo was so frustrated with the lack of services.  He was tired of the many lonely and aimless hours he spent riding on MARTA, wanting the job and the life he observed around him.  He would say to me time and time again that there was no place out there for him. 

The heart is our core.  It is the innermost and central part of our emotions, feelings and our being.  It’s where we love,  feel loved and connect with others.  Our heart is where we carry the special things that we cherish and hold dear. Bo strongly influenced me and was a major part of my life.  My heart shattered in the wee hours of a September morning in 2020. The chilling ring broke our silent slumber and a canopy of dread crashed down upon us.  It was THE call.  We listened disoriented and dumbfounded as the chaplain’s voice uttered, Bo is gone.

With God’s help,  I am gathering up the broken pieces and putting my heart back together again, each piece representing someone dear to me..  Bo’s piece fits perfectly in the center etched with his handprint. As I reorient myself to my new life without Bo,  I’m finding that my heart is stronger, more seasoned and somewhat larger than before.  Guess that’s what happens when you’ve experienced a painful and life-changing loss.  You seem to be more keenly aware of the losses and troubles of others around you and they somehow find their way into your heart as well.

Bo is not gone, his spirit lives on.  He will continue with me on my journey to establish the place he so badly needed, and the place I wanted for him.  I am reminded of him every time I pass a box of Goober’s in the grocery store,  hear a song by Tool, or see a MARTA bus go by.  But, it will be his voice echoing in my head that will inspire me and drive me in my determination. Bo said to me on the last day I spoke with him, and many, many times before,  “you aren’t listening, you don’t understand,  I need a place to go where I will be accepted and understood.  I want to work, have friends and have a meaningful life.”  No more placements!

Oh, but Bo, I was listening to you.  I had just the place.  It just didn’t open soon enough for you.  Clubhouse Atlanta is open now and is the answer to long awaited prayers.  To God be the glory!

 

The rest of the story...

It has been a two year journey since I lost my son, Bo.  In those many months, time has marched on and I have continued by faith to carry out my promise to Bo.  In my last conversation with him, I pledged to do all that I could to find a place for him.  A place where he could find peace and solace, joy, and to laugh and be carefree. 

 

Bo’s passing was untimely, preventable and disturbing.  His life on this earth was over but my job as his mother was not.  In death, as in his life, I continued working to pursue justice for Bo.  I found a very competent and compassionate attorney to represent us.  I began daily prayer journaling for justice for Bo and God’s will to be done.  My faith and trust in God grew stronger as the weeks and months went by.  I knew with all of my heart that God had been there with Bo and knew the truth.  We are promised that goodness will come out of tragedy.  I believe in God’s Word and in His grace.

 

Our lawsuit was filed because of negligence and other wrongful conduct that led to the death of my son, Bo. 

 

Going through a lawsuit can be thought-provoking and create a rollercoaster of emotions.  There are decisions.  Do we settle or continue to trial?  What will be the best outcome?  There are many aspects to consider.

 

First and foremost, I wanted to honor Bo.   I did not want to expose his stressful life to the public.  After all, my goal was to find a place of peace for him.  Mediation seemed the answer.  The way to find justice for Bo.

 

Bo’s case has been settled and justice has been done.  Others struggling with life as Bo did will be helped. 

 

Interestingly, now that it is over, I am dealing with losing him again, but in a different way.   Part of me wants to scream to the world that Bo died a wrongful death and justice was done.  The other part of me wants to hold it in my heart and just experience the peace I have finally found.  Something that our settlement has given both Bo and me.  He can now rest in his place of peace.

 

Through Clubhouse Atlanta and advocacy,  I plan to work even harder to help individuals living with a mental illness and their families.  In my years as a NAMI Family-to-Family facilitator I have attended over a dozen funeral services for the loved ones of families represented in my classes.  Most, if not all of their deaths were preventable.  Had we had suitable and well managed places for their care, trained, knowledgeable and competent individuals in the jobs overseeing them, and laws to properly treat and protect them, these vulnerable and hurting individuals would still be with us.  Mental illness is devastating to families and their loved ones.  We need a system in place that will see to it that an unstable person is not let out on the streets with nowhere to go or a person in crisis is not treated indifferently and without respect. 

 

Our mission is “Clubhouse Atlanta is an inviting place for adults living with a mental illness that gives them Respect, Dignity and courage to reach their potential as valued and contributing members of their community”.  Clubhouse Atlanta is a solution to this problem.

 

-Susie Kyle, Board Co-President

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