VOCAL is Virginia’s statewide network of people who embrace their mental health challenges and work together to heal communities. We organize and empower individuals to create broad-scale social change by transforming individual lives, local communities and the mental health service delivery system.
Membership is free to all who identify as “peers,” people who either now or in the past have experienced emotional turbulence, mental health crisis, or extreme states of consciousness (commonly labeled as “mental illness”). We also encourage honorary members who do not personally experience mental health challenges but want to partner in our work. Join us today.
Our values guide all the work we do. VOCAL creates programs that respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people, regardless of their current or past mental state, diagnosis, or use of medications. We also value the right to self-determination and the important contributions of peer support and self-help.
Read more about our Mission and Vision.
VOCAL is 100% peer-run, meaning we are staffed and managed entirely by peers. Feel free to reach out to our staff and board members directly or call our office at 804-343-1777. Learn more about other peer-run programs in Virginia, the United States and the world.
Our initiatives are carried out through four core program areas:
- Co-OP (Consumer Owned and Operated Programs)
- REACH (Recovery Education and Creative Healing)
As a sampling of what we do:
- hold hope for those who can’t see a way forward by telling personal stories of recovery;
- provide comprehensive connections to other peers, trainings, and jobs through our E-Digest newsletter;
- develop and deliver empowering recovery education workshops;
- provide technical assistance for sustainable peer-run support programs;
- monitor federal, state and local mental health-related laws and advocate for policy that supports and is shaped by peers; and
- respond to member requests for programming. What would you like to contribute to the VOCAL community?
Brian Parrish, Cassandra Nudel and other leaders founded VOCAL in 1999 as the “Virginia Organization of Consumers Asserting Leadership.”(Consumer is a word similar to “peer,” based on the idea that many peers ‘consume’ mental health services. Enjoy this history of the mental health consumer movement from our friends at the National Empowerment Center.)
The core mission then, as now, was to organize so that peers could connect with and support each other and offer a strong voice in reforming and creating alternatives to the medical model of mental health service delivery.
We are grateful to Brian and Cassandra for their vision and passion and leadership that laid a strong foundation for the work that VOCAL continues to achieve today.