In 1997, NISA’s founding members first came together in a research project led by a local occupational therapist. They worked as a team to identify what was stopping them from moving forward in their recovery and what would help. Their ideas soon developed into specific objectives. They wanted a safe place to go to explore their skills, participate in meaningful activities, and figure out what they wanted to do next. It was important not to have something to do, but something meaningful to do.
Out of this concept came NISA, which was set up as a not-for-profit corporation a year later in 1998. Our first program was the ParNorth Research Project, where people living with mental illness could ask questions and find the answers through their own research. Soon after, The Writers’ Circle and Open Minds Quarterly launched, and people could explore their own stories and histories in writing. Not long after came The Artists’ Loft, the Northern Computer Recycling Depot and Warm Hearts/ Warm Bodies. Behind these programs was the belief that consumer/survivors, as we called ourselves then, could make meaningful contributions to the community. So we began our long history of community involvement: we donate quilts to those in need of warmth each year, we make sure students and people with low incomes have access to technology, we share our creative work through public art exhibitions and in our literary magazine Open Minds Quarterly.
In 2010, NISA increased its services to offer peer support. Out of this grew the Sharing Circle, Recovery Wellness, and active living programs. A year later, in 2011, NISA began operating the Regional Warm Line. The Warm Line provides telephone support by peers for peers across Northeastern Ontario. It is open every evening, 365 days a year. In more recent years, NISA has also introduced the community to peer support with our outreach team. NISA continues to grow and change with every passing year. We depend on our members to offer input and suggestions to keep us moving in the right direction. We need you