Making Meaningful Connections with our Community’s Most Marginalized


SouthLight’s New Community-Based Assertive Treatment Team serves those with the most severe and persistent mental illnesses

Maxx Dempsey of SouthLight

Maxx Dempsey

Guest blog by Maxx Dempsey, Certified Peer Support Specialist on SouthLight’s Assertive Community Treatment Team

Schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. What springs to mind when you read these words? Do you think hopeless, different, scary? If you thought these words, you are not alone.  

These diagnoses are considered by many to be serious setbacks at the least and have the potential to lead to the catastrophic fracturing of a life. This can manifest as multiple hospitalizations, little connection to natural supports, and a sense of being left behind. 

What it Means to Be Part of SouthLight’s ACT Team

We serve to bridge the gap between what our members’ goals are and their circumstances when they come to us. ACT is designed to be a long-term relationship, and that gives us the satisfaction of seeing sustained growth.

Our Assertive Community Treatment or ACT service definition is described as “a community-based group of medical, behavioral health and rehabilitation professionals who use a team approach to meet the needs of an individual with severe and persistent mental illness.”  

What this looks like in practice is a team that has decided to put its faith in the ability of our members to advocate for themselves and work towards a more sustainable future for themselves. 

Before I began my journey on SouthLight’s new ACT Team, I read the service definition, but I didn’t really understand the undertaking. I was in a place where I just decided to say “yes” to things. It took me a while to wrap my head around what it really means when someone is described as having been diagnosed with “serious and persistent mental illness.” And it was challenging at first (still is!), and yes, it was scary, and it felt hopeless and different.

Bridging the Gap Between Our Members’ Goals & Their Circumstances

The most unexpected discoveries I have uncovered are the strength and determination, the resourcefulness and pure grit of the people we serve. 

I have witnessed a mother work on a resume and then gather five (five!) job offers in one week. I have met a young man so musically gifted that he could easily become the “next big thing”. I have seen the skilled and artful way that our members navigate homelessness in Raleigh’s broken housing emergency. I have experienced moments of ingenuity and bravery necessary to live in a world in which one has seemingly been marginalized and then forgotten. 

As a Peer on the team, I have the unique position of seeing myself reflected quite clearly in our folks. I have battled addiction and I have collected mental health diagnoses along the way. I am one safety net away from living a life on the margins. 

If I do ever find myself there, I know now that there is the possibility of outstretched hands waiting for me, and a team of seriously qualified and passionate people to help me be seen, and ensure that my voice is finally heard. 

SouthLight's ACT Team
SouthLight’s ACT Team

Nurturing Relationships; Forming Meaningful Connections for Healing

What we do on the ACT Team is just facilitate. Our folks all have the capacity for autonomy and the potential for success as it is currently measured by society.  

We serve to bridge the gap between our member’s goals and their circumstances when they come to us. The ACT Team is designed to be a long-term relationship, and that gives us the satisfaction of seeing sustained growth, and the ability to nurture relationships and make meaningful connections. It also gives us the privilege to see folks bounce back from setbacks with the resilience of true fighters. 

So there is no hopelessness, there is hope. And there are differences, we are all different, but less than you think. There are scary moments, and there are moments of authenticity and bravery. There is the potential for healing and safety. 

With the ACT Team, sometimes success is measured in inches rather than miles, and sometimes the road our members navigate doubles back or seems to disappear.

What I’ve discovered is that the metrics used to measure these journeys are varied and ever-changing, and I have grown to understand that the lessons I’ve learned and the connections we’ve cultivated are enough to justify the challenges of this important work. 


SouthLight Services

SouthLight provides mental health and substance use services, call 919-787-6131 or visit our services page to learn more.