The Right MixAn integral part of RVICS’ proposal for an “intentional community for the benefit of those with serious mental illness” is a mix of population – those with a serious mental illness and those without any mental illness integrated together in the same community.

Having only those with a serious mental illness congregated together would risk creating just another ghetto. The mix is also part of the therapeutic concept whereby those with a serious mental illness and would develop real and lasting relationships with those who aren’t mentally ill. The latter’s lives would be enriched in turn by such relationships – reciprocal relationships and the sharing of humanity.

Riverview Village would be a community for the benefit of the seriously mentally ill but not exclusively of those with a mental illness.

The question inevitably arises: What would the relative percentages of the two populations be? RVICS has concluded that each component should constitute no less than 40 per cent respectively of the community, with the remaining 20 per cent to vary according to experience.

There are a whole series of reasons for the minimum 40 per cent:

  • Therapeutically, and for facilitating the development of reciprocal relationships, rough equality is the best possible mix.
  • A key objective is to create a community where those with a serious mental illness feel they truly belong and that belongs to them. Less than a constituent 40 per cent would undermine that possibility.
  • Less than 40 per cent would also mean that little by little, as the community evolves, those with a mental illness would be marginalized. Community facilities, programs, and activities would be similarly affected, with the priorities of those with mental illness gradually given short shrift.

To avoid politicking about this when the community is being established, the rough equality, with the 40 per cent minimum for each component, needs to be explicit and written into the charter of the community. Some people in the field have even suggested that to avoid marginalization of those with mental illness, their residence should be established first. If, however, the commitment to a rough equality is explicitly made and incorporated in planning, that shouldn’t be necessary.