In a Mental Health Crisis, Simply Wanting to Help Isn’t Enough

May 8th, 2018

Success doesn't come to you. You go to it.

Ethan Call, a college student, was worried when he noticed that his friend — who normally attended church every Sunday — didn’t show up to teach Sunday School that day.

He knew she had been struggling with depression and anxiety. So, he texted her and asked if she was okay.

She wasn’t.

Gwen Cubit, a mother from Texas, was worried when her son texted her from Maryland asking her to call him. He said it was urgent.

She picked up the phone and found him in the throes of an emotional crisis — he wasn’t sure if he wanted to kill himself or someone else.

Think about the last time you worried about a friend, a family member or a neighbor.

Many of us can sense when something isn’t quite right, but the fear of being intrusive, overstepping our bounds or saying the wrong thing can prevent us from acting.

So, far too often, we do nothing to help.

Ethan and Gwen Knew What To Do

Luckily, Ethan and Gwen knew exactly what to do. They had both recently been trained in Mental Health First Aid where they learned how to recognize when someone might be experiencing a mental health or substance use problem, and mastered an action plan to help.

Noticing the red flag, Ethan left church and drove to his friend’s house. Immediately, the Mental Health First Aid action plan kicked in.

He sat with her and listened to her talk about her feelings — without judgment — over milk and cookies. He gave her information about where and how she could access professional help.

He encouraged her to turn to her friends, family and faith community for support. Now, Ethan’s friend is working with a counselor and doing much better.  She got help.

Gwen immediately recalled an important strategy from her Mental Health First Aid training: stay calm.

She kept her son talking, asked questions about what he was doing, where he was and where his family was.

She took his risk of suicide seriously and encouraged him to go to the hospital with his father-in-law, who lived in the area.

Her son agreed, and she stayed on the phone with him until she heard him check in with the administrative nurse at the ER. Her son was diagnosed with depression, and is doing much better today. He got help.

Each of these stories begins the same way: a person trained in Mental Health First Aid notices that something isn’t right. And each story ends with a person in distress getting the help they need.

But when people don’t know what they’re supposed to do when confronted with a difficult situation — when they don’t have an action plan for stepping in when someone is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem — the stories can end much differently.

How Mental Health First Aid Helps

Mental Health First Aid takes the fear and hesitation out of offering support to someone in an emotional crisis. It provides critical tools for helping people that can mean the difference between life and death.

Today, more than 550,000 Americans are trained in Mental Health First Aid. That’s 550,000 people who would know when and how to react to a person in crisis.

And Human Support Services is proud to be a partner in that progress. But in a nation of more than 318 million, 550,000 is not enough.

This month, we celebrate Mental Health Month. We recognize the incredible strides we’ve made in promoting understanding, increasing opportunities and improving the lives of people living with mental health and substance use problems.

Mental Health Month is an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come. But Mental Health Month is also an opportunity to acknowledge how much more work there is to do.

In January, the National Council for Behavioral Health launched the Be 1 in a Million campaign—a national effort to train one million people in Mental Health First Aid. Since the launch of the campaign, more than 50,000 new first aiders have been trained.

This Mental Health Month, we encourage everyone to become part of the Be 1 in a Million movement.

  • Get trained.
  • Spread the word.
  • Offer support to someone in need. Because — as Ethan, Gwen and so many like them know — recognizing how and when to step in and offer help can change, even save, a life.

Article adapted from the National Council for Behavioral Health.


HSS Selected for National Initiative to Reduce Recidivism in County Jail

April 25th, 2018

HSS chosen for criminal justice & behavioral health collaborative

We’re very excited to announce that Human Support Services is one of only three nonprofits selected nationwide for a new initiative designed to improve mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment outcomes for incarcerated individuals.

The initiative is a project of the The National Council for Behavioral Health.

We applied for and were selected by the National Council to participate in this training and support initiative, which is formally called the Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health Collaborative (CJBHC).

The initiative, which will be coordinated locally in a joint effort between our organization and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, will focus on early identification and treatment of mental health and substance abuse disorders of incarcerated individuals at the Monroe County Jail.

I believe this collaboration is an outstanding opportunity for Monroe County to make great strides forward in addressing mental health and substance abuse disorders in our justice system.

We want to address these issues the second the individuals come into the jail, and hopefully start the rehabilitation process much sooner so we can stop the cycle of recidivism.

While incarcerated, jails can spend two to three times more on individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders than on people without, but often do not see improvements in recidivism or recovery, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health.

The National Council also reports that more than 60 percent of individuals reentering their communities following incarceration live with mental illnesses and substance use disorders, and because these concerns are left unaddressed, those individuals face a much higher risk of recidivism.

With CJBHC, the National Council is hoping to address these issues, one community at a time.

By improving the continuity of care during and after incarceration, and promoting the overall health of a justice-involved individual, we are increasing the chances of a positive outcome.

If we can reduce recidivism among the justice-involved population who face mental health and substance abuse disorders, we can lighten the load on law enforcement, and ultimately, improve public safety.

The 12-month training and technical assistance initiative will offer corrections officers and HSS staff the opportunity to develop organizational processes for screening and assessment, care planning and coordination and intervention.

The initiative will strengthen the existing relationship between HSS and the Sheriff’s Department, and will create a “pipeline” for justice-involved individuals, establishing a standardized process of intervention and treatment options, and ensuring continuity of services upon release.

Reducing recidivism among individuals with mental health concerns and substance abuse disorders would benefit not just the individuals served, but also the general public and taxpayers, said Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing.

“I would say 75 percent of the total jail population has a mental health or drug issue,” Rohlfing said. “If we can get these people the help they need instead of just locking them up, we would reduce the money needed to house them long term. In the big picture, we’ll be able to focus our attention and resources on violent crime.”

This new initiative will complement the existing Adult Redeploy Illinois (ARI) program, which is currently facilitated by HSS in Monroe County.  Through ARI, non-violent offenders are given the opportunity to engage in intensive treatment and case management services in lieu of a prison sentence. ARI participants must be recommended by the court.

HSS and Sheriff’s department staff, along with other members of the newly-formed Collaborative, will convene for an official kickoff meeting in Washington D.C. on April 26, 2018.

I am personally very excited about this opportunity, not just for our organization, but for the future of our community.

– Anne King,
HSS Executive Director


Domestic Violence Crisis Counseling available in Monroe County

March 8th, 2018

Domestic Violence crisis Counseling available in Monroe County

Nationwide, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Unfortunately, in smaller communities like ours, access to domestic violence prevention services, such as counseling and legal assistance, can often be difficult to access.

Our friends at The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois, (VPC) a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Belleville, have long been working hard to address these issues for families here in Monroe County, and in our neighboring counties of  St. Clair and Randolph.

Locally, the VPC has had a legal advocate based at the Monroe County Courthouse since 1997.  Victims of domestic abuse can visit that office to seek orders of protection or gain advice on how to navigate the legal system.

But when the courthouse closes, domestic violence victims who need counseling or other services have had few local options to seek help.

Now, thanks to a new partnership with Human Support Services a full-time VPC Domestic Violence Crisis Counselor will be able to provide services in Monroe County.

“The Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois is excited to have the opportunity to bring domestic violence counseling services to Monroe County,” said Darlene Jones, VPC executive director.

“It is a challenge for clients to travel to Belleville to receive these services from our certified domestic violence professional counselors,” Darlene continued.  “Although we have a Legal Advocate in Monroe County to assist with obtaining an order of protection, understanding legal rights of an individual, developing a safety plan, etc., the effects of domestic violence goes on long after legal intervention has been provided.”

In these cases, not only is the victim impacted by domestic violence but so are the children in the home who have witnessed this behavior.

Providing domestic violence counseling can help in the healing process, empowering the individual to move forward and breaking the cycle.

In Darlene’s words, “The union with HSS is perfect and we are thrilled to work closely with their staff.”

The counseling position is funded through the Victims of Crime Act grant recently awarded to VPC.

For us here at HSS, it’s a win-win situation.

It’s invaluable to keep Monroe County residents close to home to receive these important domestic violence prevention services, and allow working families to receive these services here in a safe space.

HSS isn’t certified to provide domestic violence counseling. That’s a service that VPC provides, and we’re happy to have that service as part of our full team approach here.

Even better, with VPC in house, we can refer back and forth if there are individuals that we see in our mental and behavioral health programs, and likewise.

The VPC provides a 24 hour crisis helpline/hotline to answer calls from the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line and others for immediate crisis intervention and counseling services. That number is 618-235-0892 or 800-924-0096.

For the time being, anyone who needs to schedule an appointment with the VPC Domestic Violence Crisis Counselor in Monroe County should call the hotline.

To contact the VPC legal advocate in Monroe County, call 618-939-8114.


Human Support Services to Open Bed & Breakfast in Waterloo

February 22nd, 2018

B&B

If you haven’t heard by now, let me be the first to share our very exciting news: we are the proud owners of a Bed & Breakfast!

On February 16, Human Support Services closed on property at 4505 HH Road in Waterloo that we plan to operate as a bed and breakfast and a group home.

This is a very, very big deal for our HSS family!

B&B

While we’re still in the early stages of this project, we envision that this five-bedroom home will become a full-time home for three of our clients with developmental disabilities. The clients, with help and supervision from HSS staff, will work at and operate the B & B.

The clients who will live and work at the B & B will be chosen based on their capabilities, talents and desire to live and work in this setting.

Each client will have his or her own bedroom and bathroom. The remaining two bedrooms will be offered as traditional bed and breakfast rooms, open to the general public and/or our out-of-town guests and family members visiting our clients here at HSS.

I’m particularly excited because this B & B is going to be a fantastic place for many clients – not just those who live there – to gain job valuable job skills and social interaction. As we develop the property and operate the B & B, there will be opportunities in everything from grounds keeping to meal preparation.

You may remember that this property was previously operated as the Waterloo Inn bed and breakfast, came on the real estate market in 2017.

HSS senior management saw the property as an opportunity that could benefit our clients, our organization and the community at large.

B&B

The B & B will be an asset to local tourism, and is likely the first of its kind in Illinois.

We are preparing the building for occupancy now and hope to start serving guests in early spring.

I hope you are as excited about this project as I am!

-Anne


Mental Health First Aid Courses Teach Individuals – How to Help Someone in a Mental Health Crisis

January 26th, 2018

mental health usa

By the looks of them, they weren’t excited about this day.

Even the most eager learners aren’t typically enthusiastic about being crammed into a tiny conference room for eight hours.

But this group – eight men and one woman – looked particularly pessimistic about this training session.

They were corrections officers – jailers in conversational terms – and this was Mental Health First Aid training from Human Support Services.

This was not regular First Aid; there would be no CPR skills being taught in this course. But the material they would learn – if they were willing – could just as likely save a life.

Mental Health First Aid teaches individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in their communities.

Like CPR, Mental Health First Aid can help save someone’s life in an emergency by teaching them how to respond when someone is in the middle of a mental health crisis.

The training also gives participants the tools they need to identify signs of a developing mental health issue in a co-worker, friend or family member, and intervene successfully.

Mental Health First Aid training, which can be offered to anyone in the community, is particularly helpful for first responders and corrections officers because it can help prevent the escalation of situations that are often already volatile.

For trainees who work in these high-risk environments, the tools provided might just help prevent injuries, arrest and in some instances, even death.

As expected, the training started out slowly. When the instructor talked about mental illness, a few officers expressed skepticism. Could this training really make a difference?

But as the instructor pressed on, she noticed a change. As she talked about the symptoms and the signs of anxiety and depression, she began to see their expressions change a little.

By the time lunch rolled around, an officer in the back raised his hand. He said his closest friend had been exhibiting many of the behaviors the instructor was describing.

The more she talked, the more the officer began to realize his friend was depressed.  He wanted to know how he could help his friend.

The instructor shared real life scenarios and took the officers through hands-on demonstrations, walking them through what it might look like to approach a woman having a panic attack in a busy shopping mall.

By the second half of the day, the room was quieter and all the officers were more attentive.

As the instructor guided the officers through more role play exercises, more began to recognize signs they had seen in inmates and suspects.

The officers began to realize that what might look like intentional noncompliant behavior might actually be the result of a mental illness episode.

During one exercise, each officer took a turn trying to answer questions from a teammate while the instructor whispered negative comments incessantly in his ear. The exercise, which is intended to simulate what it’s like for someone who suffers from schizophrenia, was eye-opening for many of the officers.

Though Mental Health First Aid training is just a short one-day course, it can change minds and in turn, change lives.

Right now, Human Support Services only has one individual  trained to offer Mental Health First Aid courses. We could offer many more classes if we had more instructors.

The more people who understand how to respond to someone who is having a mental health crisis, the better prepared we all will be to handle difficult situations.

Every Mental Health First Aid training helps our community take one more step toward understanding that mental health concerns are not something to fear.

If someone is developing or experiencing a mental health crisis, a listening ear and a little assistance may be all they need to get back on track. Please support Human Support Services in our efforts to educate the community.