Government Award Given to Lishma for Innovative Program

21 March 2019

Lishma, an organization of and for people coping with psychiatric disabilities, received the Health Minister’s Award for the Promotion of Health Rights for its Hospital Peer Specialists Project. The unique project employs people with psychiatric disabilities in mental hospitals where they act as liaisons between patients, families, and medical staff.

“We were very happy to get the prize because it is recognition on the part of the medical establishment of an innovative mental health program that works,” said Lishma Director, Tammy Matzlavi.

An evaluation of the project from the Szold Institute showed that the perceptions of hospital staff changed and patients’ sense of well-being improved. The evaluation also found a significant decrease in problematic behaviors such as restraining patients to their beds.

“With all the credit to mental health professionals,” said Matzlavi, “there is nothing like someone who has been there to give inspiration and hope to people who are hospitalized.”

Pinto Mimun, a former psychiatric patient at the Center for Mental Health in Be’er Sheva, is now the project coordinator for peer specialists there. “I was in a closed ward there 12 years ago – a very difficult experience – and the very fact that I shared the experience that patients are now going through, and recovered from it, means that we can have a dialogue as equals,” he said in a film produced about by the Society for Patients’ Rights in Israel, which was a partner in presenting the Health Minister’s award.

Originally funded by Social Security, the project is now supported by the Ministry of Health, which would like to expand the Peer Specialists’ program from the two hospitals to all of Israel’s psychiatric hospitals.

Photo by Miriam Alster / FLASH90