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A Heartfelt Farewell to Ruth Arnold, CEO

With a heavy heart Colorado Recovery announces that Ruth Arnold, CEO will be retiring this month. She has served as CEO for Colorado Recovery for four years and she will be missed. She has been a compassionate leader and brought a vast amount of knowledge about mental health to our organization. 

While at Colorado Recovery she helped support and develop the Bridge to You program, she helped create a marketing position, oversaw the transition of our website platform, spearheaded Colorado Recovery’s membership with the American Residential Treatment Association, supported the expansion of wilderness therapy programming, and much more! 

Ruth began her career at Mental Health Partners(MHP) in 1974 and she left MHP in 2016 to join Colorado Recovery. During her years of service, she worked closely with Colorado Recovery’s founder, Dr. Richard Warner and she was able to maintain his vision while serving as CEO at Colorado Recovery.

She held many positions during her career at MHP; she was the Team Leader for the vocational rehabilitation program, a Therapist at MHP’s intensive residential program, and a Team Leader for the assertive community treatment team. She was well-liked and respected in all of her roles. 

She can take credit for many accomplishments that have had a great impact on the mental health community. She started WATBusiness Services,  a thriving workplace that employed many people with serious mental illness for many years. She was instrumental in starting MHP’s very successful Chinook Clubhouse which helped people with major mental illness find a sense of belonging to a social community, develop job skills, secure supported employment, and succeed in independent employment. 

Ruth is a founding Board Member for The Center for People with Disabilities where she is still an active Board Member and she will continue to serve on the board during her retirement. 

The entire community of staff, clients, and families at Colorado Recovery wishes Ruth a heartfelt farewell. We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Ruth. She has shown us how to create and leave a lasting legacy.

June Bianchi, Transitional Housing Program Manager says, “The Colorado Recovery community is very grateful for the effort that Ruth put forth to make our agency thrive. We have been very grateful for her determination, passion, and unrelenting optimism for those struggling with mental health and the unrelenting support of the staff that serves this community. The experience that Ruth held regarding mental health, budgets, and developing programs will strengthen Colorado Recovery for years to come. We will always be grateful for her and the immense change and improvements she made. Ruth has a quiet strength, intelligence, wisdom, flexibility, openness, and a great sense of humor. She made so many difficult, important, and lasting decisions for our community. For this, she will always be remembered and we will always be grateful for her guidance and leadership.”

“Shssss……(she said so quietly)……I am on medication!”

She was 17 years old and came by the booth that I was hosting on mental health challenges.   Even before she whispered this to me, she had looked around to make sure no one else was listening.  I leaned in and she told me that she has been living with depression and finally she talked with her mom and found a therapist and therefore the medication.  Her depression had clinging to her spirit weighing her down for a long time.  But now she is engaged with others, a member of a church youth group, and has even had the courage to tell one of her closest friends of her struggles with depression.

I felt privileged that she would talk with me, a stranger, although I was at a church conference and I was at a display on mental health.  She seemed relieved to be able to speak, to name her situation, and to find a listening heart.

There are so many people, including young people, who are living in the shadow of mental health challenges.  They are in our families.  They are in our faith communities.  How can we offer the hospitality of spirit so that the sharing of such stories as the teenagers can be balm for healing and offer hope?

One of the easiest ways is by using caring and compassionate words in a clergy person’s sermons, homilies, or prayers.  While many congregations are not known for such welcoming of naming mental health challenges, they can be.  Using the words, “we pray for those who are living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression,” or “we pray for those who are battling addictions or mental illness,” or “we pray for those who are affected by mental illness, including their families and friends,” can be an open door for people who are living in the isolation of silence and to come out and speak or at least realize they are not alone.

When have you experienced such a welcome?  When has hospitality opened a door for you or someone you love to find a place where their spirit can be at home?  I don’t really know if the 17 year old girl felt better talking with me.  However, I surely did feel connected.  I have found myself telling this story so others may also be attentive to those times when chance encounters can lead to break the silence.  Out of the whisper a truth was spoken that led from vulnerability to strength.

Alan Johnson

 Interfaith Network on Mental Illness

 

Sibling Support – What’s Out There?

As a child growing up I never thought about the concept of needing “support”. I didn’t think about the fact that I didn’t know anyone who was experiencing a lot of the things that I was experiencing in my home. Maybe I did have friends who were also sibs to special needs kids, but if I did, I didn’t know it, because I was not aware that there was a need and so I didn’t talk about it. I was a kid trying to be a kid, plain and simple. I had no idea of the concepts of peer support, the need for validation, or a safe forum to ask questions that I had about my brother’s disability or what it meant for my family, for me, or our future.

It was when I got older, working in the fields of both mental health and developmental disabilities, that I felt a kinship with the siblings, admittedly more so than with the parents of the special needs’ kiddos, or even the person with the special need him or herself. It started to happen naturally, and frequently, that I felt good when I could tell it helped them when I said something that clicked – I would often get a look which I translated as “Oh wow, you understand?, “You get this??”, or “This is comforting”. And then they’d be on their way, or I would … out the door, and then I worried they’d be back in a void; a place where they could not speak openly or feel as heard. At that point I realized my life had been a bit different than my peers and that it sure would have been nice if someone had understood, and that things should change.

I then reached a point in my career where I felt fairly secure or grounded in how I would approach sibs and was lucky enough to make talking to them about these things a small piece of my work. But I also became obsessed with finding out what else was out there. What kinds of groups? Doesn’t anyone else realize this is a need? And I researched. What I found was both thrilling, and disappointing. There is very little available, which saddens me. It is still a field untouched and undiscovered, really. However, I also found The Sibling Support Project, and Don Meyer; someone who not only knew the need very well, but the man who took the extra leap and created the curriculum for Sibshops. Eventually, I took his workshop and now am a facilitator of these Sibshops in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There are many around the world. Below are a couple of links, with explanations of this issue, the need to address it, what Sibshops are, and how to find them. I highly encourage you to surf around, wherever you are. There may be a Sibshop near you, and if not, you may want to make it known to a local organization that you wish there was, and that you would want to partake in that service if it was available. Maybe you want to take the workshop and then facilitate them yourself! It is highly rewarding, FUN, challenging, and affirming.

http://www.siblingsupport.org/
There are so many places to go within this site. If you are a sibling of a special needs’ person, you could be here endlessly. Pay it a visit.

Some options:

You may click on “Sibshops”, then “Find One Near You”, and enter your country and state and see what pops up.

Or click on “Connect With Other Sibs” and find the various stories to read and maybe connect with, and there are also some very active online forums for sibs to join.

There are books under “Publications” (which can be life-changing; one in particular was, for me), or click on “Workshops” to see if a facilitator training is coming to your area.

www.rockymountainsibshops.com
A shameless plug at my own website, should you happen to be in the Pikes Peak region…. Even if you’re not, I invite you to click on “External Links” for some good Youtube videos and recommended publications which might serve you.

I have seen some change in the past year or two. I give most of that credit to Don and The Sibling Support Project, for raising awareness, and to the work of Sibshops’ facilitators in so many communities. It is a healthy start. There is so much need, and so much more room to grow. Please get involved. Chances are if you are reading this blog, you are involved at some level. I hope the importance of sibling support is ringing true with you and that you will seek it in your community and consider getting involved.

Lisa Croce, RN, BSN

www.rockymountainsibshops.com

 

Sticks, stones and stigma

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. This poem is wrong. I have never broken a bone in my life, but words have cut, trampled, and drilled through my heart. All the pain inflicted on one person can tear them apart. I should know. I have been in pieces since preschool.”

This was written by my grand daughter when she was eleven and writing about how it is to be living with a brain disorder and ostracized as being weird by her peers. Fortunately, she is doing very well now at fourteen, has lots of friends and is a star goal keeper for her high school soccer team. Still, it was a long haul and I have kept this piece she wrote to help remind me how important it is to work continuously to fight name calling and the stigma of mental illness. As a retired mental health professional, I have found the National Alliance on Mental Illness to be a great way for me to continue being an advocate on our Colorado Public Policy Committee. We need all the help we can get so please consider becoming active in NAMI.

NAMI Colorado is dedicated to building better lives for the 250,000 plus Coloradoans and their families who are affected by any number of mental illnesses – schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder and others.
We do this by providing:

— free educational classes about mental illness to the community;
— providing support groups for those with mental illness and their families;
— through political advocacy for all concerned;
— and through our volunteer support and donations.
NAMI’s national website is www.nami.org

NAMI Colorado’s website is www.namicolorado.org

Phoebe Norton