Inspiring Hope with Recovery Bags

By: Shruti Rajan, Outreach Coordinator

To many individuals, every moment of living in recovery can feel like having to set out on a long trek without being equipped with an extensive list of tips and tricks to maneuver the unpaved roads ahead. While being the sole navigator in this important journey can feel so personally rewarding, it can also be lonely and testing when faced with setbacks that affect the ability to understand why the fight to keep moving forward is so important. Through the sleepless nights and the strong urge of wanting to give up, they often seek out hope and ways that remind them why their journey is so important. In the end, these reminders can come from wanting to protect themselves, finding ways to soothe rather than self-destruct, and reaching out for help instead of isolating.

As an organization that deals with a sector of the population that often feels unheard and alone, we consistently seek out opportunities that make our consumers feel like they did not have to ‘trek’ into the uncharted territories alone. NAMI Dane County aims to be the one trick that they have up their sleeves when faced with the unique struggles of the winding and spiraling roads of their own recovery. With the help of SSM health, we have been able to play a healthy role in our consumers’ recovery and be the tangible voice of reason for when their most intrusive thoughts, fears, sensations, and ideas become the most magnified.

The Recovery Bag Project hopes to ignite the consumer’s commitment to their recovery; it hopes to inspire them to create individualized mental health toolkits of their own. Through everyday items like tea, rubber bands, and coloring books, it ultimately provides its users different ways they can utilize their own sensory modalities to divert intrusive and harmful ideations. We supplement the creative sensory outlets with resources, numbers, safety templates, and information that empowers the individual to be their own advocate in a mental health crisis.

Since its inception in September of 2016, we have prepared over 1,300 recovery bags for SSM health’s psychiatric units, schools, mental health organizations, case workers, and interested members. While it remains clear that it is not the only solution for suicide prevention, it has quickly become a key player in providing a safe spot to build a journey towards recovery for our consumers. The ultimate goal of the project is to make our consumers feel like their concerns are being heard while connecting them to the resources in our own community in an innovative way. We hope to keep expanding on this project and see a future where every hospital, school, and organization has a personalized recovery bag of their own!

There are almost 120 people who have their lives claimed by suicide everyday. Equipped with our recovery bags and our commitment to help save people in times of distress, we can all work towards reducing that number. If you think that you or a loved one would want to get involved with this project please feel free to reach out to me at

Ways you can help are: sponsoring a bag for someone in need, volunteering your time by making or distributing these bags, or filling out a form to get one of your own!