My name is Alice Washington, and I’m an associate at CIBHS. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to a new CIBHS Blog, “Just saying … All About That Hope”. We hope to be unpredictable and innovative in our perspective. We are “All About That Hope” that was created in 2004 when the Mental Health Services Act was passed. This is a space to talk about all topics related to persons with lived experiences and their family members, whether dealing with mental health or substance use and abuse issues.
Our topics will explore recovery, wellness, systems and policies, the dynamics of feedback, and in some instances, we will provide snippets of history for those who are new to working in Behavioral Health systems to help them understand how important it is to listen and truly understand feedback. This is a place for sharing ideas, innovative thinking, testing these ideas with others, and getting people involved in a dialogue.
Because we want to involve you, in not only reading and commenting on our blog, we will accept suggestions for topics that you would like us to explore in future editions of the blog.
Just saying … Oftentimes, balancing a life is difficult for people who are experiencing behavioral health issues. Our lives become scattered, chaotic and hopeless as we suffer from painful thoughts, bad experiences, negative relationships, and sometimes, alcohol and substance abuse.
The Wellness Scale shows how wellness and life are the strong rods that keep our behavioral and physical health in the balance as we use hope to organize and plan our life, and set goals. If something becomes unbalanced on the scale, our life and wellness are in danger of crumbling and will lead to behavioral and physical unhealthiness.
Just saying … one time many years ago my family had taken a trip to Oregon. Six of us had decided to go shopping and, of course, my son was with us. We were all in one car – three in the front and three in the back. My son was seated in the back seat next to the window and started to laugh to himself repeatedly for no apparent reason. I thought to myself, “I know how to handle this” – I am a psychiatric nurse; I have attended many Family-to-Family classes – I am very capable of putting everyone at ease with the situation. I casually said to my son “When you laugh to yourself like that and the rest of us don’t know what you are laughing at – it makes us very uncomfortable”. He thought for a minute – then said, “Well, mom – it’s my mental illness, but if you all want to laugh, you can join in anytime”. Needless to say, we all did … it’s all about that hope!
Just saying … A couple of months after we had “enrolled” our son into a treatment program in Los Angeles, we received a phone call from the Administrator. It was around 9 pm and he told us our son had left the facility and they were sure he was headed home and it was “vitally important” that we not let him into the house until he promised to return to the program. It was in the middle of the winter and the temperature was 27 degrees. This was my first venture using “tough love”.
Just saying … I am often thankful to my former roommates, two sisters who were from Guam. They helped me volunteer during my stay in a supported housing program, i.e., where you rent a room with others who are reintegrating back into the community. My former roommates would literally pull and drag me out bed each morning “Alice, get up we have to go to work!” I was medicated, sleepy, and had issues with going to work because of the sleepiness. They persisted, and bless their hearts, my former roommates were correct. I needed to work, i.e., volunteer to combat being overwhelmed with mental health issues. At this stage, I was “in recovery”, still having a diagnosis, in therapy and needing to think about returning to work since I needed fewer services. I needed a different type of service.
Just saying … In my recent blog, Volunteering: Supported Housing and Peer Support, I ended with a hopeful message of using volunteering to help others and ourselves.
I am in a stage of “wellness”, but I have not lost the lessons of volunteering. A year or so ago, I started using LinkedIn more. I had no clue how to navigate their website. The beauty of LinkedIn is that they gave me my first hint or push with an alert message, “You do not have any volunteer activities. We recommend you fill in your profile with some volunteer activities.” I blinked! My blink included finding a volunteer organization in their job feed, VolunteerMatch, that would help me complete my profile. I signed up!
Just saying … I had a request to write about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I have lived experience with CBT. In the 1990s, I was assigned to a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) intern at a community-based agency in Santa Clara County. We spent months together in CBT sessions. She spent time focusing on my thinking and behaviors as I was dealing with a major mental illness and living in residential housing. She helped me align my thinking and behavior so I could function in the community without fear and intrusive thoughts that had no basis in reality. You might say, “She helped me start down the road to recovery”. I would not be working full-time today, if those practices, both evidence-based and community-defined, had not been researched and found to be effective in helping me heal.
Just saying … When our son was diagnosed with a serious mental illness it was in the 70’s, and there was very little available in terms of medications, treatments or facilities that rendered services. We were informed of a Clinic in Los Angeles and contacted that organization. We discussed it with our son and made arrangements to travel to Los Angeles and “look over” the Clinic and separate living arrangements. The Clinic was fine, but it was our first experience with a large board and care, and we were shocked when we entered the facility.
Just saying … The 18th Annual Behavioral Health Informatics Conference and Exposition will feature some helpful sessions which will help counties make informed choices about technology and most notably apps. I believe counties need to make informed information technology choices to continue to promote recovery and wellness for all behavioral health clients and family members.
Just saying … Ping. Ping. Ping. Are you there? Are you my real friend? Where R U? I was a girl in elementary school when the computer mainframes hit the schools and we had computer rooms. We started to learn how to program and print out pictures of animals and other stuff. At Stanford, we learned a computer program and spent nights in the computer building trying to code. Years later, coding is still part of school curriculum, but at a different level, with children learning HTML and CSS to create websites and apps.
Just saying … On November 3, 2017, we felt the loss of Facebook for a while as the social media’s website was not available. I grieved, but I remember how I got hacked years ago…the Facebook story goes like this …
Just saying … One of the most memorable events that happened during my son’s illness was the time when my youngest grandson and I were visiting and the issue of stigma and discrimination came up. He asked, exactly what is stigma and discrimination? I went on to explain that many people do not understand mental illness and some of the features that accompany the illness i.e., talking to themselves, being distracted, being overly friendly, or staying to oneself, or perhaps not dressing appropriately. Many times people make fun of persons with mental illnesses and it is very hurtful not only to the person but to the family members. I explained that the person with the illness is often aware that people are making fun of them.
Just saying … One time many years ago, my son was home for a visit and came to see me at my work. He was sitting in a chair across from my desk and turned to look at the wall to his right, where I had many certificates and plaques displayed.
He said, “Mom, do all those certificates and plaques have your name on them”. I sat a little higher in my chair, thinking to myself, – “he is paying attention to the things that I do”. I answered – “Yes, every one of those has my name on them”.
Just saying … My son has been in the system for many years and had a habit of disappearing for several days at a time. Even though I was worried, he would always call within a day or two and let me know he was ok. This one incident – he had been gone three days – he called from the Greyhound Bus Depot in Los Angeles and said he was tired, hungry and wanted to come home. I went to the bus station locally and purchased a bus ticket to our residence and extra money for food. About two hours later, I received a call from my son saying he had lost the ticket. I told him to go back to the bus station and I would send another ticket. He said the employees at the bus station had told everyone to leave if they did not have a ticket, and he could not re-enter.
Just saying … Winter brings cold and wet weather. You, your friends and families will huddle inside to get away from the weather. Oftentimes some of us suffer from episodes of depression, “the Winter blues”, during this season.
It is always essential to take care of our mental health, but especially during times of tragedy. This email includes a few resources to share with staff and community members as well as a reminder, and tools, to practice self-care.
SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Line: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Alice J. Washingtonhttps://www.cibhs.org/housing-and-benefits-assistance
Just saying … in the last blog, we spoke about researching other cultures who struggle with helping people settle into housing in the Western manner even when they are uncomfortable living inside walls. One culture that share’s these struggles with some Native American cultures are the Wiradjuri and Dharawal people in Australia. “Housing varies between urban and rural native Australian people. The national, state and local governments have encouraged nomadic groups to settle in houses in the European manner. They have built houses for some groups that live in the desert regions of central and western Australia. Native people have adapted these structures to their own design. They use them for storage, but usually regard them as too small and too hot for eating, sleeping, or entertaining.” (Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures, 1999)
Alice J. Washingtonhttps://www.cibhs.org/housing-and-benefits-assistance
Just saying … The Capital of California, Sacramento, saw lots of rain during the Fall and Winter of 2016-2017. The drought ended, and so did the homelessness under a stretch of highway near Sacramento’s Natomas area.
The Nextdoor, an app that creates online communities so neighbors can speak about their area’s events, seems to light up with complaints about people who are homeless and live in the river beds located in Discovery Park – Interstate Highways 160 and 5 are its borders.
I often drive through this area. I drive through Highway 160 to get to work and to go home. I see more people who are homeless on my way home. Panhandling occurs, with people who are homeless often standing on the median asking for assistance.
Just saying … Peer Support is a way for a person who has or is experiencing behavioral health issues to help others who are living the same experience. Oftentimes, the values, ethics, and competencies of peers lie in their humanity. This question came to CIBHS: how do you integrate peer support core values, ethics, and competencies into daily practice? In effect, the question aligns with how we practice cultural competence daily.
Just saying … At some point, I began to realize, our bodies are living organisms that require a certain amount of care and healing. When our brains are no longer healthy, we may forget to care for the other parts of our bodies. We isolate our brains and say this is what matters.
For years, I have focused on how my brain functions. It is only recently, with the field of Behavioral Health focusing more on Integrated and Whole Person Care, did I realize the brain is dependent on the proper functioning of all organs in my body.
Just saying … the smell of physical exercise fills my lungs as I close the locker and head for the stairs. My fitness watch will accurately track my climb up the stairs. As the year progresses, the climb becomes easier and I breathe more freely.
As I climb, my mind becomes worried, but I am determined to reach my goal. I pray that at least one of my favorite exercise machines will be open. “Yes. One is available!”, I exclaim. I quickly adjust the settings of the open elliptical machine. I set my fitness watch and begin to move my legs and arms. My memory is fixed on the goal: run like heck to raise my heart rate and use the muscle enhancement feature to strengthen my muscles.
Lately, I have wondered whether I am still mentally ill. I think back to recent studies on the positive effects exercise has on the brain and how it decreases symptoms of mental illness.