Friday, 14 August 2020

Welcome to the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community





The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) supports healing and empowerment for our broader communities and people who have been impacted by psychiatric diagnosis, trauma, extreme states, homelessness, problems with substances, and other life-interrupting challenges through:

  • Peer-to-peer support & genuine human relationships
  • Alternative Healing Practices
  • Learning Opportunities
  • Advocacy

Essential to our work is recognizing and undoing systemic injustices such as racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, transmisogyny, and psychiatric oppression.


The RLC is made up of PEOPLE (not places) and is wherever and however YOU and others from the community may choose to connect.  Together, we offer a variety of events, workshops, trainings, advocacy and leadership councils, as well as a peer support line, three resource centers (Springfield, Greenfield, and Holyoke) and a Peer Respite in Northampton. Above all else, we create space for anyone who has a genuine interest in taking part in our community and holding its values to share and find connection, information, ideas and opportunities to make change in their own lives and/or the community around them. Our shared experiences and ‘humanness’ are what unite us. Our stories, collective wisdom and strength are what guide us and our community forward.    


The Recovery Learning Community (RLC) is a peer-run project providing supports to individuals with lived experience.  One of the founding concepts behind the RLC is that human relationships with people are healing, particularly when those people have similar experiences.  And so, above all else, the RLC strives to create forums through which human relationships, community and a regional network of supports can develop.  On a day-to-day basis, that effort may take the form of a community meeting, a support group, a computer workshop and/or simply offering a safe space where people can communicate with others or simply be.  The RLC also acts a clearing house for information about other resources in the community.   

 The Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community is funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the United Way of Franklin County, and a variety of private foundations and donations.liveunited logo





Registering to Vote by the Deadline

The deadline to register to vote in Massachusetts is October 19th. That's in THREE DAYS.

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We apologize. The event you're trying to purchase tickets for is sold out. Please e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request being put on the wait list or to be notified of any chances.

Save the Date: Exploring Psychiatric Drugs: Harm Reduction, Withdrawal, and Mutual Support

Join us for three days of exploring our relationship to psychiatric drugs as individuals and as a community, leading up to the development of an ongoing peer support group on this topic.

Wednesday, September 20 to Friday, September 22, 9:30am to 4:30pm
Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, Holyoke, MA

Day 1 - Personal Exploration: A time to explore different aspects of your relationship with psychiatric drugs, including: your beliefs about what they are and how they work, the impacts they’ve had on your life, relationships, and sense of self, and the changes you might be considering moving forward.

Day 2 - Practical Considerations: An opportunity to consider the various factors involved in thinking about and preparing for coming off or reducing psychiatric drugs, including: the impacts of psychiatric drugs on the body and why this matters for reducing or coming off them, possible risks and benefits of withdrawal, common experiences during withdrawal, how to prepare yourself in a way that optimizes your chances of success, and strategies for more effective communication and self-advocacy with prescribers or family members.

Day 3 - Building Local Supports: Thinking about putting together a group for ongoing exploration of this topic, including: hearing from individuals who’ve run psych drug-related groups before, hearing from individuals who have come to different places on use of psych drugs through their own processes, and values and approaches we want to incorporate in any group that would exist in our own community.

This event will be free. Sign up for all three days, or each one separately!

More details (including how to sign up) will follow soon. Click here for a flyer version of this information.


RLC May Newsletter 17

The Boston Globe’s Mental Health Series: A Pulitzer At Our Expense

In April the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Award winners were announced. Fortunately, the Boston Globe was not among them. However, sadly, they were a finalist for their Spotlight Team’s ‘The Desperate and the Dead’ series.

For anyone unfamiliar, the ‘Desperate and the Dead’ is a 7-part series (with additional articles framed as ‘follow-ups’) that took a close look at the Massachusetts Mental Health System. Unfortunately, they did so in the most degrading, sensationalized way possible, always including graphic stories of violence and misusing statistics to   re-enforce their points.

Additionally, in spite of the applause they earned from some corners, they really brought nothing new to the conversation. Most notably, they almost completely ignored the voice of anyone who has ever received services from that system, including over 100 such individuals who showed up on their front doorstep in protest.

This series has hurt us. Any applause (or award nominations) they receive is on our backs and at our expense. It is well past time for us time for us to create our own media, and to do our best to disrupt the mainstream messages out there. If you are someone who is a confident writer, it’s time to start sending more letters to the editor any time such an article rises up, or to try your hand at getting an editorial published. If you prefer, collaborate with people at your local Recovery Learning Community (or other group or organization) to make videos that can be circulated on the web or maybe even Public Access television. And, if you’re a provider or other person in this community who wishes to be an ally, learn to use your credibility to raise our voices and/or echo our messages.

At the end of March, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team added a ‘follow-up’ article to the series called, “A depleted state system fails many with mental illness”. The Western Mass RLC’s Sera Davidow responded with part 6 of a series of articles responding directly to the Globe called, “Dear Boston Globe, Part VI: Congratulations. Bad Things Happen.”  You can check out that response HERE. We hope it will move you to write one of your own!

Survivor Theater Presents: A Beautiful Anger

ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger

Thursday, May 18, 2017 @ 6:30pm

Holyoke City Hall


On Thursday, May 18th, 2017 at 6:30pm at Holyoke City Hall, Womanshelter/Compañeras and Survivor Theatre Project (STP) are coming together to create a community space for survivors and allies to experience a powerful performance of “ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger” and engage in open dialogue about the cycles of violence in the western Massachusetts area. This evening, we will join in community to uplift a message of resistance and resilience for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

STP’s Touring Company performance, “ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger” is a show that connects music, percussive rhythms, spoken word, and raw emotion to encourage audiences to reflect on how sexual violence survivors thrive in a world that attempts to silence our rage. Womanshelter/Compañeras Community Educator, Carmen Nieves shared that “our collaboration with STP is an extension of our mission to bring awareness and healing to communities. STP is not just a valued partner, they enrich and enhance the work that Womanshelter/Compañeras does."

Tickets at the door on a sliding scale, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. No advance tickets. For event information contact STP Company Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Performance Description: A collection of poetry, rhythm, monologue and movement that ruptures the confines of victimhood and illuminates a spirit that cannot be broken. In a society struggling with sexual violence as an epidemic, these survivors define what true protection means, and galvanize our communities from art to action. A collection of poetry, rhythm, monologue and movement that ruptures the confines of victimhood and illuminates a spirit that cannot be broken. In a society struggling with sexual violence as an epidemic, these survivors define what true protection means, and galvanize our communities from art to action.

“ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger” is produced by Survivor Theatre Project, created by the Survivor Theatre Project Touring Company: Barbara, Kaia, Monique & Vero. Music & Direction by Iréne Shaikly.

Survivor Theatre Project’s 2017 Tour is sponsored by Cambridge Arts Council, the Cambridge Women’s Center, Holyoke Cultural Council, & the Massachusetts Cultural Council. And in partnership with Enchanted Circle Theatre, Mental Health Association, Inc., Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, & Womanshelter/Compañeras.


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  • The Murphy Bills and Beyond

    In June of 2015, Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania re-introduced the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), better known as the Murphy Bill.  A month later, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a very similar bill in the Senate called the "Mental Health Reform Act of 2015" (S2680).  Both pieces of legislation threatened to dramatically increase the use of force and dismantle many of the more progressive and healing alternatives that have been developed in recent years. As of November 2016 the fate of both bills remained uncertain.

    Meanwhile, another piece of legislation called 21st Century Cures was in development and garnering increasing bipartisan support. A sweeping and expansive healthcare bill, 21st Century Cures was, initially, minimally focused on mental health provisions. Having been stalled in part due to resistance from Senate Democrats' concerns that the bill was dangerously empowering for the pharmaceutical industry, 21st Century Cures also faced an uncertain fate in November. However, the election of President Trump and consequent fears for the bill’s fate prompted a reworking of the bill that also included the absorption of many aspects of HR 2646, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis.”

    21st Century Cures was passed by the House and Senate on November 30th and December 7th of last year, respectively. On December 13, 21st Century Cures (now including substantial portions drawn directly from HR 2646, "Helping Familties in Mental Health Crisis") was signed into law by President Obama. 



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