The Lishma Association for the Integration and Empowerment of People Coping with Mental Health Issues was established in 2006 by and for people living with mental health issues. The association strives to make the voices of people with mental health issues heard by the public, to represent them in various forums in order to improve their social standing, and to provide them with solutions and pioneering programs . The Lishma Association is the oldest national representative body run by people coping with mental health issues, and it constructs unique interventions and services in which people with mental disorders become peer specialists who bring their personal experience to promote, empower, and support copers in the various stages of their recovery process.

In 2018, the association was awarded the Deputy Minister of Health’s Commendation for Promoting Rights in the Health System on behalf of the Ministry of Health and the Association for Patients’ Rights for its Peer Specialists Program in psychiatric hospitals. In 2021, Lishma’s CEO was chosen as one of the fifty most influential women by Globes newspaper.

The Association’s goals:

  1. Promote the social standing and integration of people coping with psychiatric disabilities and labels in Israeli society
  2. Develop a dynamic and accepting community whose members fight for their rights
  3. Integrate those coping with mental health issues into the mental health care and rehabilitation systems including policy making and fighting stigmas.

The Association’s primary projects and activities:

Policy issues: the association’s representatives are members of various committees (two national councils in the field of mental health, a forum of mental health organizations, etc.) and present copers’ position on policy issues in the field of mental health. Two task groups operate a program to eradicate stigma among future professionals and with activities for seniors coping with mental health issues. Altogether there are some 60 activists in the group who meet on Zoom and WhatsApp and directly, to plan and implement the programs.

Peer Specialists in hospitals: copers, as part of the hospital staff, accompany hospitalized patients and family members, help in the acclimatization process, and provide an eye-level message of hope based on experience for a high chance of recovery. The project is running at the Be’er Sheva Mental Health Center and at the Mazor Mental Health Center in Akko. This innovative project is in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Yozma derech Halev company and was established with the National Insurance Institute’s Special Enterprise Fund. Until recently the peer liaisons were employed through Lishma, and now the program has been integrated into the Mazor and Be’er Sheva mental health centers.

Returning Home: this project is in collaboration with the JDC. In this program, a care coordinator and a mentor – a coper in an advanced stage of recovery – help copers integrate into the community after hospitalization, exercise their rights, and with leisure activities and employment. The project ran at the Aberbanel Mental Health Center, Be’er Ya’akov, and Shalvata and has now been integrated in Shalvata and the public health funds.

Seminars /community days: These aim to enhance the sense of ability of people coping with mental health disabilities by creating a dynamic and active community that sets itself goals and achieves them. The community days / seminars are accessible to copers throughout the country and deal with topics that concern the community as a whole, such as medication, hospitalization alternatives, trauma care, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and more. The content is filmed and uploaded to the Association’s website for the benefit of those who cannot leave the house to participate directly.

Warming the Heart: Lishma acts to raise funds at national holidays to provide care packages to those hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals. As of the last couple of  years these are also given to lonely elderly copers in the community. The kits include basic equipment such as toiletries.

As an organization of copers for copers, and based on the understanding that joining forces and integrating the added value of all stakeholders will result in maximal impact, Lishma acts in collaboration w1ith families’ organizations, professionals, and policy makers.