What is a CSI?

Consumer Survivor Initiatives (CSIs) are organizations run by and for consumers of the mental health and or addiction system or who identifies as having a mental health issue or addiction. Consumer survivors are those who have learned to cope with their mental health issue or addiction. Consumer survivor initiatives allow consumers to use their personal lived experience, knowledge and coping skills to help others with similar issues.

“Consumer Survivor Initiatives are described as run for and by people with mental health problems and/or those who havereceived mental health services. Consumer survivor initiatives (CSIs) embody the principles of inclusivenessand recovery that underlie the current government’s transformation agenda for the Ontario health caresystem. CSIs contribute to desired outcomes by supporting people in their recovery so that they have less needfor formal mental health services.” Consumer Survivor Initiatives: Impact Outcomes and Effectiveness (CMHA, CAMH, OFCMHAP, OPDI, 2005)

What is Mental Health Peer Support?

Peer support is a supportive relationship between people who have a lived experience in common. In this case, the experience that individuals or groups have in common is in relation to a mental health challenge or illness. The peer support worker provides emotional and social support to others who share a common experience. The commonality may not be in relation to a specific challenge or illness, but rather to the struggle and emotional pain that can accompany the feeling of loss and/or hopelessness due to a mental illness. Each person is unique in their experience and path towards recovery. Peer support is rooted in the knowledge that “hope is the starting point from which a journey of recovery must begin.” Peer support workers can inspire hope and demonstrate the possibility of recovery. They are valued for their authenticity because they can relate to the challenge and have found their way to recovery. Recovery focuses on people recovering a quality of life in their community while striving to achieve their full potential. Recovery does not necessarily mean “cure”. It goes beyond the reduction of symptoms and considers an individual’s wellness from a holistic point of view that includes their relationships, their involvement within community, their general wellbeing and a sense of empowerment. Peer support focuses on health and recovery rather than illness and disability.  From the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Guidelines for the Practice of Peer Support


Psychiatric Survivors

Consumer Survivor Initiatives and Peer Support are rooted in the psychiatric survivor movement and civil rights movement. They formed in an environment of reclaiming of one’s personal power, taking a positive “mad” identity and the movement from institutionalization to community.

Psychiatric survivor movement

Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto

Psychiatric System Survivor/Consumer Advocacy A Critical Literature Review