Mental Health Awareness Month a time to celebrate hope, renewal

 Mental Health Awareness Month a time to celebrate hope, renewal


May 13, 2022

Jen Godwin’s oldest son struggles even with the basic tasks of life. He couldn’t care enough to brush his teeth. He also couldn’t control his emotions. By age 5, he was already taking medications. During grade school he would fly during class.

Godwin would send quick fire crisis calls from teachers asking him to come and calm his son down. She had to hug him tightly, sometimes for almost an hour, before she could relax. At age 9 he ran away from home.

Godwin spent countless hours searching for programs or services, but eventually the state took custody of the boy, and Godwin’s two young children.

“I ran out of all my options, accessed all the resources, researched everything I could,” he said. Then someone mentioned the Multnomah County program called Puston around. The program provides comprehensive family-centered support for youth who are experiencing severe mental health or behavioral challenges.

Godwin met his Wraparound case worker, Bobbie Simmons, the day he was called to a local hospital, where his son was detained after fleeing his foster placement.

“I went into the hospital, and it seemed like the world was against me,” Godwin recalls. Then Simmons approached him and introduced himself. Godwin never felt alone again.

“I couldn’t have done it without Bobbie,” he said.

Year of Mental Health

Godwin was one of those who spoke Thursday as Board of County Commissioners declared May 2022 as Mental Health Awareness Month Located in Multnomah County in the United States.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety are on the rise in people of all ages, as are community violence and reports of substance use disorders.

“The last two years, we’ve seen the severe crisis go up and up, and we hear all the time how people are struggling,” said Behavioral Health Division Interim Director Julie Dodge. “The pandemic highlights the differences we see, racial differences, poverty-related differences, lack of access. We have this opportunity to say, ‘How can we move towards hope and recovery? ‘”

“The impact of the pandemic is clear,” said Commissioner Sharon Meieran |referring to a recent survey that showed one-in-three people in Oregon report symptoms of anxiety and depression. “It’s sad.”

Meieran said increasing rates of depression and suicide among young people especially alarming. Often young people go to the emergency room because of an issue about their mental health. Meieran, who also works as an emergency room doctor, said he has seen children as young as 8 boarded in the emergency room rather than being cared for by a program specific to their needs. Meieran sponsored a youth mental health forum on May 21.

“I am very pleased that we have recognized May as the month of mental health,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. “We really need to recognize the year of mental health, make sure people know there are places people can go for help, and make that a normal part of our lives – not just May, but all year round. “

Behavioral Health is included in programs throughout the County, from student health centers and primary care clinics, in shelters for people experiencing homelessness, in ambulance services, in groups working with minors and adults covered by the criminal justice system.

The Behavioral Health Division provides a continuum of safety -net services – directly, but also through a provider and peer network – to about 53,000 people each year. Those programs support people who are low-income, insecure, or have experienced homelessness.

The Division also provides oversight and coordination for a 24-hour, year-round crisis response system that serves all of the County’s more than 800,000 residents. This includes Mental Health Call Centermobile crisis outreach and urgent walk-in clinic.

The Division has a range of programs that focus on children and youth who need more support than what a child or family therapist can do. In addition to Wraparound, the Division provides Intensive Care Coordination and Early Psychosis Intervention.

The County’s goal is to normalize mental well-being in the same way that communities support physical well-being.

“Mental health care shouldn’t just come during an emergency,” said Commissioner Lori Stegmann. “It has to be built into our lives every day.”

Lots of repairs

For Jen Godwin, her son’s mental health has exhausted his waking hours. But by the end of 2017, she felt hopeless, spending years trying out services and programs that didn’t help her son.

As Godwin faces the prospect of fighting for his children, he feels that the world is against him. At the time, he lived in his car and was saved on a meager Social Security income. Struggles for the basic necessities of life. combined with anger and helplessness at the loss of her children, made some days almost impossible to maintain the integrity she had established after her methamphetamines addiction.

But the knowledge that someone had come back to him and trusted him kept him going.

“No one dared, but Bobbie,” Godwin said. “I don’t have anyone there for me yet. And he is. He will ask, ‘Did you eat? Did you sleep? ‘ If it weren’t for Bobbie, I wouldn’t be able to have my children back. ”

At meetings of child protection services, Godwin often felt he was being fired by state workers. But if he asks an unanswered question, Simmons will enter.

“Ms. Godwin asked a question, ”Godwin recalled Simmons saying. And if Godwin is angry, and already wants to quit, Simmons will remind him of what’s in danger.

“When I have big emotions, he lets me take my minute,” Godwin said. But only for a moment.

“I wasn’t there to hold your hand,” Simmons would say. “You want your kids back, you better do x, y and z.”

And he did. He was looking for an apartment and in 2019 the landowner was convinced to give him a chance. Within 24 hours, Simmons dropped a check for the first and last month’s rent, along with the security deposit.

While Godwin spent time with his son at his residential treatment center. With the help of the Wraparound program, her son got the testing he needed and the support he deserved. Her two youngest children moved in with her in 2019. And her oldest son moved home in 2020.

Her son is 14 now and no longer has a complete cocktail of pills. She is back in school, and studying independently at home. And he’s fine, Godwin said.

While program staff reminded Godwin that he was the one working, Godwin said he couldn’t have done it without Simmons by his side.

“He was there 100 percent, supporting, connecting, understanding. Not trying to judge, control or dictate,” Godwin said. “Through Bobbie there is a lot of healing. Through Wraparound there is a lot of healing. ”



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