Steve Markind has bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. Without help, people with mental illness can face grave danger; for Steve, managing his disorder has been the struggle of his life. But since 2002 Steve has had a stable foundation from which to heal at Jewish Federation-supported Tikvah Residence, which provides comfortable, affordable housing for adults with mental health needs.
Run by JEVS Human Services, the Tikvah program is one of independent living within a caring community environment. “We all help each other, we’re very close knit,” says Steve of the eight residents of their brick apartment building on a leafy corner of Drexel Hill. Residents receive health care assessments and support from specialists, help with job searches and job retention, and group sessions that teach skills like relationship-building and stress management. Having easy access to other residents is key: Through weekly dinners, group exercise classes and events, participants come to know and rely upon one another.
As Steve has gained control over his health, he has discovered within himself a deep desire to help others. “I like to see how people can expand themselves, feel better about themselves, and do things to grow,” says Steve. “That gives me pleasure to see that they’re growing.” He now works as a certified peer specialist, counseling clients through their own struggles with mental illness. And Steve’s open, accessible nature means he’s always available to lend an ear to his fellow residents.
For Steve, accessibility is circular: His ability to access a stable support system has allowed him, in turn, to be accessible to others. “I believe my own experience has equipped me to do this,” he says. “Now I help people to help themselves.” We should all aspire to be as accessible as Steve.
When you are accessible, you are open and approachable — able to encounter others with empathy, and in ways comfortable for them — so that you can meaningfully connect.