ORLANDO, Fla. – July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, observed each year to bring awareness to the unique struggles facing racial and ethnic minorities.
And this week’s Getting Results Award winner knows those struggles firsthand.
So she started a nonprofit to bring people together and let them know they’re not alone.
Yasmin Flasterstein looked out into the backyard of a South Orlando home, where grass was growing waist-high and the walls were open around her, exposing electrical boxes and wood framing.
“It doesn’t look like a lot right now, but I love it and it brings me motivation,” said Flasterstein, looking through a hazy wall of windows in the mid-century home under renovation. “I don’t see the overgrown grass. I’m excited for the garden.”
Flasterstein has big plans for the single-family home in a quiet neighborhood. She calls it Eva’s Casita.
“It’s going to be the first peer respite in Central Florida,” she said with a smile. “It’s going to be a place where people can take a break from hardship, stay for free overnight and just get away for a little bit. They’ll be surrounded by others with shared, lived experiences.”
Flasterstein is the founder of Peer Support Space, a peer-led organization designed as a supplement to the mental health system. Flasterstein said the organization puts a focus on helping people with intersecting marginalized identities.
“We focus on catching individuals that fall through the cracks of our mental health system,” the Peer Support Space website reads. “We help those (18+) navigating mental illness and/or substance misuse challenges, neurodivergence, disability, grief, trauma, or other obstacles to mental wellness. This is done while focusing on Black, Latinx, immigrant, LGBTQ+, disabled folx, and other communities that show statistically higher rates of mental health challenges and/or lack of access to affordable and accessible mental wellness options that practice cultural humility.”
Peer Support Space hosts daily virtual community gatherings, identity-focused peer gatherings and in-person, activity-based workshops.
“I think it’s important to know that Peer Support Space isn’t meant to replace traditional treatment. I think it’s a complement to traditional treatment,” Flasterstein said. “We’re just a piece of the puzzle. But it’s important. And no one understands the cultural nuances of a community like the community itself.”
Flasterstein added Eva’s Casita will serve to catch people before they’re in crisis.
“The idea is they can come here and get their ducks in a row,” she said. “They can connect with one of our one-to-one peer supporters. Now they have a peer that can work alongside them that has similar lived experiences.”
Peer Support Space has gotten results. The organization hosts 75 groups a month with hundreds attending virtually from across the country.
Flasterstein’s background is in emergency mental health response. She was part of the response to the Pulse tragedy and discovered a lack of services for people with intersecting marginalized identities.
“There’s a lot of preexisting issues for marginalized identities looking for mental health treatment,” Flasterstein said. “In the case of the Pulse tragedy, people were LGBTQ+ and Hispanic or Black. It was really hard to find therapists for them that specialized authentically in both things.”
Tammy Cissell nominated Flasterstein for the News 6 Getting Results Award. Cissell holds mental health workshops and has watched Peer Support Space grow.
“Mental health and well-being is very dear to my heart,” Cissell said from her home in Chuluota. “I saw on News 6 to reach out if you know someone getting results and I think she’s doing amazing things in the community. The community needs her.”
Cissell said she’s excited to see the respite home completed.
“I believe it can make a world of difference in people’s lives, being surrounded and supported by people who care about you. I’ve learned that compassion, connection and comfort are what heals people and I know that’s what people will get there,” she said.
Cissel is convinced the respite is needed.
“I would love to see her succeed because when she succeeds so many people will benefit from that,” she added.
Flasterstein told us Eva’s Casita should start welcoming guests as early as November.
“I’ve been picturing the day we open for a long time,” Flasterstein said. “We’re hoping to do this right so it can be a blueprint for more peer respites in Florida.”
To keep up-to-date on everything happening at Peer Support Space, visit the organization’s website.
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