10 Steps to Support Mental Health

By Leslie Scott, MSSA LSW CTP-C

My name is Leslie and I am the new Professional Development Coordinator at Huck House. I have been with Huck House since 2016, as a crisis counselor and an intern. I have been a licensed social worker in Ohio since 2015 but have over six years’ experience working in non-profits. The last four years, I have worked as a crisis counselor, therapist, and clinical assessor.

My experience in the field has taught me the value of having professionals in the community I could lean on. Whether that was for support or to find the answers I needed. I also learned that “trial by fire” was the common method of training for many social workers, until I came to Huck House. At Huck House, I found a place where my professional goals and beliefs were echoed in my supervisors and colleagues. This is why I worked hard to create a training program for the community to provide other professionals the opportunity to seek support in their professional growth. That is why the motto of the program is “our promise to you is simple, we only teach what we know works”.

The program hopes to begin scheduling community trainings this summer. If you are interested in Huck House coming to your agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My contact information is at the end of this blog.

 

10 Steps to Support Mental Health

 

1 Wear your beautiful, messy green ribbon

Did you know when someone wears a green ribbon, they are raising awareness for mental health? Personally, I think we should all wear a tangled mess of ribbon or string, like the picture above. The tangled mess represents a truer version of mental health. Mental health is complicated, messy, hard to untangle, yet doesn’t take away from the beauty of the person. This is important to remember when talking about or addressing mental health. It can be hard to see through the messiness or be overwhelmed with the idea of untangling it, but remembering the beauty helps to give us strength. The last week of May, challenge yourself to wear a tangled (but beautiful) green ribbon.

 

2 Listening is a superpower

To support someone with mental health, you don’t need to have all the answers or know what to say. Listening is often the most helpful thing we can do. As a therapist when I ask my clients “what was most helpful,” I often hear “having someone to listen.” Especially with adolescents and young adults, who feel misunderstood, listening is an easy way to show them you care and value their thoughts. Listening is being able to repeat back what someone just said to you, focusing on their words instead of your response, and putting value in someone else’s thoughts.

 

3 Language can Destigmatize

Let’s start talking about mental health the same way we do about diabetes or any other physical health problem. This helps to destigmatize and undo any shame associated with mental health disorders. Mental health, like any other physical health condition, is treated through medication and meeting with your health professional regularly.

 

4 Know How to Talk About Mental Health

Be able to talk about mental health in a supportive way. I explain it using the image of an old-fashioned train line. The mental health train line is like any other, it has with multiple stops, each one different from the last, each one a different place. Some passengers may get off on the first stop, while adjusting to a new school, losing a parent, or are struggling with sadness. These passengers may be new to mental health or are struggling with their mental health for a short time. While others may ride the train to the middle, get off on a stop where they can get help for nightmares of witnessing violence, seeing things others can’t, or feeling like a yo-yo between sad and happy. The rest of the passengers will ride to the last stop, which is the most severe and most isolating disorders. Like trains, passengers may get on and off throughout their lives. Some passengers may be lucky enough to find a treatment that works and rides the train home, only returning for prescription or check ins with their healthcare providers. Some passengers are only there to hold someone else’s hand. Either way, they are all on the train together, choosing which stop to get off and what to do once their stop has arrived. Anyone can be on the train and at every stop there is help, no one is alone.

 

5 Boundaries

You can’t work harder than someone else. This is a principle taught to me in undergraduate studies, that I didn’t fully understand until I had been a therapist for a couple years. No matter how much we care about someone, they are in charge of themselves. When we work harder than someone else or find ourselves getting frustrated with their “progress”, we are actively trying to force someone into a decision or action. This doesn’t teach them how to help themselves, but rather how to please us. And it hurts everyone. By allowing others to make their own choices, you can help them learn to care for themselves in a healthy way, maintain your own health, and be able to keep a relationship with that person.

 

6 Self-care

Take care of yourself. Self-care is important for physical and mental health. Whether you want to maintain your good health or become healthier, self-care is key to these goals. Self-care is ensuring you are healthy, having time for things you enjoy, and balancing your commitments (such as work vs personal life). When I asked my co-workers about their self-care, one co-worker mentioned having a form of spiritual practice as their most helpful activity. Others mentioned mindfulness, sports, time with their children, and focusing on positive stresses as most helpful.

 

7 Mental Health is Normal

Mental health is normal. If you think about it… anxiety today is a result of humans trying to survive against all kinds of odds. When we were first a species, anxiety, fear, and pain were keys to keeping us alive. Even though we don’t need those same functions to survive today, our brains are still wired to produce them. Some brains produce more anxiety than others. Our bodies also wear out, change, and need a lot of TLC. As we get older or witness more negative life events, it is our mental and physical health that suffer. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please know it’s normal, it’s not your fault, and it is treatable.

 

8 Empathy for yourself and others

Empathy is the act of recognizing someone else’s pain and feeling or thinking of something similar. Such as yawning, smiling, or maybe feeling pain when you see someone stub their toe. It doesn’t require that you feel it or fix, but rather recognize it in the other person and yourself. When I talk with clients about their mental health, many share stories of judgment, shame, and misunderstanding. Showing empathy not only is the opposite of these but can help a person heal from previous hurts.

 

9 We all need Unconditional Support

Whether someone is recovering from trauma, depression, or has a lifelong disorder, they will need love and support. Studies continually show having unconditional support from an adult in their life builds resiliency and can help someone make positive, healthy steps in their life. While those without positive support, struggle in every aspect of development. For parents, this includes ensuring showing your children positive attention and support, choosing to focus on strengths rather than mistakes.

 

10 Educate yourself to help others

Educating yourself and others is a big start to supporting mental health awareness. There are many ways to do this: (1) attend a training or event at Huck House, (2) take a mental health first aid course online, (3) research online (experts to check out: NAMI, ADAMH, Mental Health America, womenshealth.gov, and National Institute of Mental Health), (4) check out if mental health services are right for you.

 

 

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, thoughts about hurting themselves or others, here are some helpful resources.

Emergency Services 911

Runaway Help Hotline (800) 786-2929

Rape Help Hotline (614) 267-7020

Suicide Help Hotline (614) 221-5445

National Suicide Hotline (Client & Parent Support) 1-800-273-8255

Franklin County Children’s Services (FCCS) (614) 229-7000

Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH): (614) 722 -2000

Netcare Hotline (614) 276-2273

Safe Place Locations: Krogers, Columbus Metropolitan Libraries, White Castle, Fire Stations

 

If you are interested in finding out more about our professional development program, please contact me at…

Leslie Scott, MSSA LSW CTP-C
Professional Development Coordinator
1421 Hamlet Street, Columbus, OH 43201
614.927.1463 (direct)
lscott@huck-house.org

IHOP and Conversation with Homeless Youth

By Leslie Scott, MSSA LSW CTP-C

 

Even though it’s uncomfortable, we need to talk about homelessness.” – Transitional Age Homeless Youth

 

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $6.1 million to the Community Shelter Board through the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. Unlike previous programs that have under taken to end Transitional Age Youth Homelessness (youth ages 18 to 24 years old), this program has mandated youth be a part of the decision-making process, by deciding where the funds go, how they are spent, and how we improve Transitional Age Youth homeless services.

 

The Community Shelter Board (CSB) has since formed the Youth Action Board (YAB), which is a group of Transitional Age Youth who are or have experienced homelessness and are willing to give feedback on Franklin County homeless services. I took some of the youth from the  Youth Action Board to IHOP for breakfast and spoke with them, and I wanted to share what I learned. I cannot say enough about the strength, dedication, and endurance each of these individuals have. I hope you enjoy their interviews, as much as I did.

 

What is one thing you want someone who is not nor has never been homeless to understand about the homeless experience?

Destiny H: Even though it’s uncomfortable, we need to talk about homelessness. People need to know that there are 15-year-old girls who are homeless or being sex trafficked. If people know, they will do something about it.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: When I first went into the shelter, my son was only 5 weeks only and everyone at the shelter would talk to me about my son, which made it easier. There was an instant bond. Young adults need extra support, guidance, and an example of stability.

 

What kept you and people you know in the homeless cycle?

Destiny H: Transitional Age Youth are not prepared for life after being homeless.  Youth need independent living skills, so they can have experience and know how to be adults after they have stable housing.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: I was in foster care at 7 years old, then placed with relatives who were abusive. At 14 years old, I moved to Columbus, OH with my aunt. This taught me “if something goes wrong, I can get out” when I should have been thinking about building stability for myself. Almost like the “grass is greener”. I am grateful for my current housing, as my only other option was low income housing after I left the shelter. Low income housing is very poor quality and I didn’t want that for my child. Instead of thinking “beggars can’t be choosers” think about helping someone find a “higher chance of succeeding”.

 

If you had another word for homelessness what would it be?

Destiny H: ‘Homelessness’ is a terrible word. I would use ‘without housing’ or ‘struggling’. ‘Struggling’ is a good option, because it doesn’t identify what someone is experiencing, while communicating they need help.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: For me, one situation I experience, isn’t my identity. I don’t identify as homeless. I would replace this word with “needing help” or “just trying to figure it out”. My life taught me that I needed to be “independent” and do things on my own, I am learning now that there is a balance to being independent.

 

What do we get right about homeless services?

Destiny H: “That we need help”

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: When I started the Transitional Living Program (TLP), I was given a packet that included all the information I needed. It was very helpful and made me feel like an adult, while also being supported.

 

What is missing from our current services that you need? Or needed?

Destiny H: When I was in the YWCA Family Shelter, I was pregnant and sick. Shelter rules require each person to leave during the day time, without exception, but one staff member noticed I was sick and went to management (without me asking) to advocate for my needs. He continued to check in on me, give me snacks, and ask me how I was. This made a big difference for me. We need more staff that are trained to identify our needs, be caring, and advocate for us. Advocating is very important.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: In the shelter, I had great casework, but what I needed was someone helping me with “what should you do” rather than “what have you done.” Young Adults need help planning for the long-term and understanding how to succeed. Programs that focused on me meeting with staff to discuss what actions I had taken were not helpful, as I didn’t know how to start. I also like that TLP allows me to make my own decisions and treats me as an adult, but still helps me with guidance and advice on next steps. TLP is more than a roof to sleep under for me.

 

What are five things you would change about current homeless services?

Destiny H:

  • Allow pregnant homeless youth or parenting homeless parents to be eligible for child care, prior to finding employment or enrolling in school.
  • Have shelters and facilities specifically for Transitional Age Youth, as well as staff who are willing to go to the youth. Even if it’s unsafe.
  • Have access to services in the shelters, such as job training, job linkage, and more.
  • We need to find better ways to assess a youth’s needs, then have staff to help them with those needs. Everyone needs to be treated the same way.
  • If a youth has family or friends who can provide housing, offer the youth transportation assistance to get to their family or friends.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH:

  • In the shelter, having to plan where to be each day makes it difficult to address needs and think with a clear head. I would change this rule.
  • Programs unconsciously reinforce survival instincts and need to focus on changing those instincts.

 

What was most helpful to you going through Huckleberry House program(s)?

Destiny H: The staff I have worked with are helpful, they care, and I immediately felt I could trust them. At other agencies for Transitional Age Youth, I like that there is chaos with boundaries. We can make our own decisions, able to roam, have access to a gym, access to laundry, and are safe. We don’t have to worry about our stuff being stolen or not sleeping at night or worse. Transitional Age Youth want boundaries, safety, and nonjudgmental interactions with other people.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH:  TLP “gives you room to breathe.” Staff also know and are accepting of when you fall off the wagon.

 

What else do you want people to know about your experience being homeless?

Destiny H: I have felt different and questioned the “system” since I was young. When I was diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, I was excluded from traditional classrooms and my peers at school started to bully me. Now, I am trying to make it on my own without any government assistance, after being homeless. When you have been homeless, you have to live differently and moving into housing is hard. I used to wake up in the middle of the night, in my new apartment, worrying someone would steal my stuff. Then I remembered where I was, but I was already having a panic attack.

ANYONMOUS YOUTH: I want people to understand that homeless persons or persons using welfare aren’t a stereotype of abusing the system, but people trying to get on their feet with no support. When your family isn’t there to support you, the system becomes your support. “We’re just people.”  I want someone experiencing homelessness to know you don’t need to be embarrassed.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital – On Our Sleeves

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

One in five children in the United States has a mental health condition. That’s one in five children in a homeroom class, on a baseball team or on the street where you live. That child, in fact, may be your own.

But there’s HOPE.

Helping our children’s mental health is something EVERYONE can do — not just parents and caregivers.

It’s time to have a national conversation about children’s mental health. It’s time to raise our voices for this important cause.

On Our Sleeves is proud to join the mental health community for Mental Health Month this May.

Children’s Mental Health Week

Mental health issues start younger, and their impact is broader, than most people realize. And because kids don’t wear their thoughts on their sleeves, we don’t know what they might be going through.

More than 10 percent of children 8 to 11 years old have experienced a mental illness. The percentage doubles for teenagers. Half of all lifetime mental illness, starts by age 14. That number increases to 75% by age 24.

From May 5 to May 10, the mental health community shines the light on children’s mental health. Join Nationwide Children’s Hospital in raising your voice for kids everywhere.

May 9: National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

 

May 9 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. This day highlights the importance of caring for a child’s mental health and its importance in a child’s development.

Mental wellness and coping skills learned during childhood establish the foundation for future social, emotional and academic success. That’s why it’s important to recognize when a child is struggling and get them help as early as possible. All of us can help in improving mental health for children.

Tune in on May 9 for an incredible success and advocacy story.

 

This blog article is from Nationwide Children’s and their #OnOurSleeves Campaign.