We’re wrapping up the final week of May, which means we’re almost through Mental Health Awareness Month. This month can have a different take away for different people. Whether you believe it’s time to take part in reflection, take part in a self-care challenge, or if you want to simply bring awareness to mental health and fight any negative stigma, this awareness is so important.

RISE offers a wide range of services to our community, including services for mental health for children, teens, and young adults. This Mental Health Awareness month, we thought it would be great to spotlight one of the faces of RISE in our mental health wrap-around programs. Not only do the staff work with participants every day to bring quality care so they can thrive, but they also can learn and bring new perspectives on mental health to their colleagues and to our community.

Today’s Staff Spotlight goes to Nicolette, who is based out of our Children Come First (CCF) program. And if you’re not sure what this program does or how it works, we’ve got you covered. We sat down with Nicolette to tell us all of that and what she finds fulfilling about what she does.

So today we’re doing a staff spotlight, because it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and Children Come First is a really important program. Especially because you provided wrap-around services for mental health. Could you tell us briefly what you do?

Okay, so my job is working with kiddos ages 0-19, and my job is to work with a team to put in place mental health services that they would need. So we have our own provider network that we work with and I just work with the team, learn about the family, develop goals for them, and find the right services that will match those goals to help with their mental health. And to help with the family’s mental health and well-being.

That’s wonderful! So, a lot of times we here at RISE use the term ‘wrap-around’, for wrap-around services. Could you define what that technically means for those that may not be aware of what those services are?

Well, my interpretation and what I always follow up with the wrap around is that we wrap around the child in all areas of their life. So, the family, their school, their mental health, their medications…all of that. We’re wrapping around this child but we’re also wrapping around the family and making sure that they feel supported.

What is something that is fulfilling about your work?

Oh, I love my job! [she’s laughs] I talk about how much I love my job all the time! I think people get sick of hearing how much I love my job! But I think my favorite aspect is connecting with the participants and their families, and eliminating that stigma that we shouldn’t talk about mental health…and really just bring into light that our mental health is just as important as any other aspect that we focus on. Just make sure that things are okay. I learn so much from this job every day, of just the importance of mental health and just to watch these families learn more and become their own advocates and learn and grow has been fulfilling.

I was actually doing a presentation at an outside organization, and someone had asked me if we are seeing a change in stigma around mental health and how we have progressed in our society and culture. Are you seeing a change in the stigma?

I’m definitely seeing a change, you know, just on a personal level, even within my own relationships. I talk about my work often and I’ve seen in my personal friendships change too. Really, the biggest thing we used to see people focus on was ‘how do we get them better? How do we get them off of these medications?’ And for me to explain from a different perspective, ‘hey, if your child had asthma, you would not ask how we can get them off of the inhaler. If you’re child had diabetes, you don’t ask when we can get them off of insulin. To have those conversations and to change the conversations in the perspective of you wouldn’t talk about your health like that, so why do we talk about mental health like that? And I’ve seen the stigma has been eased because of these conversations, because of the perspective of shifting the way of thinking.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see with your position?

Honestly, one of my biggest things is realizing that it’s not just me, and that I’m part of a team, and I can put services involved, but it’s a team effort. I can’t do everything, it’s about making sure the family and those involved are taking responsibility. And realizing that I’m here for a short time, and that’s okay. I’m here to get the services they need to help change their perspective, get them stable, and then step out. That used to be challenging, until I realized it’s not a bad thing. I can come help assist and then they can take over and become their own advocates for their own families and that becomes their biggest strengths.

What is something that you think we should all take away from Mental Health Awareness Month?

My biggest passion is visibility, and eliminating the stigma around mental health. I do this any way, but especially this month, I make it a point to check in with my family and my friends, my coworkers. I talk very openly about my own mental health and what I do for a job, and how important is to take care of that aspect like you would take care of any other aspect of yourself. For me, the biggest take away, I encourage people to share their own struggles and stories, at their own pace, of course. I think the more we connect with others and are honest about our own struggles and share with others, it’ll begin eliminating that stigma and will get rid of the shame people feel around talking about their mental health.

Thank you, Nicolette, for sharing your behind-the-scenes stories and your view on the stigma of mental health! Sharing our stories are so important, and we’re glad you shared yours with us.

Taking time and reflect on what Mental Health Awareness month means to you! Talk to family and friends so we can end stigma around mental health.

*If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, there is help. Please reach out to the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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