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.
Guest Bloggers and Reprint with PermissionLeah Harris PEERSPOCC
Our physical and mental health are deeply intertwined. The state of our mind can affect the health of our bodies. Physical activity has been widely correlated with a reduction in depression and anxiety, which in turn can increase physical well-being, which further improves mental health, and so on. Movement also offers an accessible alternative to persons who cannot afford or access traditional psychotherapy, or who have not found such therapies to be beneficial. And recently, researchers at Yale and Oxford published a study indicating that exercise may be more important to our mental health than economic status!
Just saying … Oftentimes, I struggle with choosing between sedentary behavior and wellness. How can this happen when I view myself as a motivated exerciser and being in remission from mental health issues?
Just saying … last year, during the Sacramento Women’s March, I ran into a well-respected colleague, Zima Creason. Zima was walking with friends and family. Yet she was doing more than just joining the many women that day. She was handing out her campaign t-shirts. Zima had decided to be one of the many women who would change our political system. She was campaigning to become one of the San Juan Unified School District’s board members. Fast track to November through December of 2018…they counted the votes and she WON! https://gem.godaddy.com/s/436a4d. You may ask who Zima Creason is. She holds an MBA and is the President and CEO of Mental Health America of California (MHAC) and other organizations including The California Youth Empowerment Network (CAYEN).
I decided to interview her about hope in the school district where her new role is to shape policy and program and provide oversight of the superintendent including their hiring and firing. My questions and her answers are as follows:
Just saying … it is well past time for us to have compassion for the whole person who is receiving care. The fields of substance use and mental health have clearly learned that treating the whole person is important for recovery and wellness by providing integrated care.
Just saying … a dream has come true for me, but I needed courage related to my own recovery and wellness to make it happen! I woke up September 8, 2018, knowing it was a birthday, but also knowing that the Sacramento community was going to start visiting art galleries later in the day as it was Second Saturday. Unbeknownst to them, they were part of my birthday!
The owner and founder of the Kennedy Art Gallery had accepted two of my photographs into one of his monthly exhibits, “Feathers and Tails-Artfully Celebrating the Whimsy of Our Animal Friends”. He explained the purpose of his gallery – founded to assist people of color, women and others who would not otherwise be accepted into other area galleries. This mission was based on his experience of being part of a gallery that was not so accepting of difference!
Just saying … how is creativity related to mental wellness? First all, let’s define creativity so we have a common framework. Google’s dictionary defines creativity as, “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work” (Google, 2018). I am creative and have been most of my life. I have my own definition of creativity, and it is, “a person who defines him/herself as a ‘creative’ who develops visionary and innovative designs, illustrations, paintings, writings, and other artwork using various media and mediums with the goal of helping others grow and live in wellness.”
As a child, I grew up creative, but did not pursue an education in art. Today, I know that I did not stay true to my inner self and I suffer, though not necessarily linked, from bouts of depression and anxiety. One study showed, “It seems likely that creative individuals do have higher rates of mood disorder in general, and bipolar disorder in particular. An obvious limitation of the work to date, however, is that it has focused on writers. A study to determine whether these results generalize to other types of creativity (e.g., inventors, performing artists, scientists) is yet to be done” (Andreasen, page 253, 2008).
What to do with creatives?
It is important to accept and support a creative as a creative. Negative labeling because of behavioral health disorders leads to internalized negative feelings about oneself. You cannot live forever as a client or patient, but you should live out who you are.
Just saying … how is creativity related to mental illness? First all, let’s define creativity so we have a common framework. Google’s dictionary defines creativity as, “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work” (Google, 2018). I am creative and have been most of my life. I have my own definition of creativity, and it is, “a person who defines him/herself as a ‘creative’ who develops visionary and innovative designs, illustrations, paintings, writings, and other artwork using various media and mediums with the goal of helping others grow and live in wellness.” Of course, I would assume this is one issue with creativity research – how to define the term!
As a child, I grew up creative, but did not pursue an education in art, although I wrote, created drawings, and engaged in photography. Today, I know that I did not stay true to my inner self and I suffer, though not necessarily linked, from bouts of depression and anxiety. One study showed, “it seems likely that creative individuals do have higher rates of mood disorder in general, and bipolar disorder in particular. An obvious limitation of the work to date, however, is that it has focused on writers. A study to determine whether these results generalize to other types of creativity (e.g., inventors, performing artists, scientists) is yet to be done” (Andreasen, page 253, 2008).
Just saying … many years ago I was sitting in an appointment with a psychiatrist in Santa Clara County. The psychiatrist was training me. On what? Well, I am a shy and timid female for the most part. I needed to learn how to not let people hurt me physically and emotionally. The psychiatrist told me to wear a “suit of armor” to protect myself from hurt and pain. He then told me I needed something else. With much heart and soul that a psychiatrist could muster, he said, “If you ever feel like committing suicide, promise me, you will call the Suicide Crisis Hotline.” This was the helmet part of the “suit of armor” – keeping me safe from me.
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”.