By Shanece Bowman, LOHF Programs Manager
Before beginning my position at LOHF as Programs Manager last year, I developed a passion for children’s mental health in my previous position as a Behavioral Health Assistant. I worked alongside a Nurse Practitioner whose clients included children and youth. I witnessed the desperate need for more child and adolescent psychologists.
My heart ached as I checked voicemails of parents whose children where in crisis mode with no direction to find help. As I tried to rearrange my provider’s schedule to squeeze in these emergency appointments, my frustration grew. I would think to myself, “A 15-minute med check appointment is not sufficient to tackle the concerns these parents have for their children”. I wanted to be more of service to these families, but had no idea how to begin.
We approach from three levels
As a Social Work major at Millersville University, I learned about the different levels of work we can do. At a micro level, we can help individuals and families; at a mezzo level, we can work in communities; and at a macro level, we can help change policies in human services.
I was always afraid of macro level social work. It was intimidating to think about trying to change policies so deeply embedded within organizations. In my mind, there was no way my voice would be heard. I learned quickly within my position at LOHF that in order to be impactful you have to work at all three levels. I get the opportunity to not only help families and communities, but also speak up about the barriers that put limitations on community members’ access to mental health services.
Breaking the chain of silence
Mental health was never something that I took into consideration as a priority for overall health. I thought checkups at the doctor’s office was sufficient. I grew up in a culture where you don’t discuss the challenges of mental illnesses. Instead, they are swept under the rug and left untreated. It wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized just how important it is to have a conversation with someone regarding how you’re truly feeling on the inside.
It is so easy to go through the motions of the day without addressing the feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, restless, and alone. I noticed my emotions impacted my son’s emotions. He could sense when I wasn’t myself. I knew then that I had to seek help for something I was battling with silently for so long. I also understood that I needed to address my own mental health in order to help the clients who come to me for services.
One year ago, I accepted the opportunity at LOHF to manage programs that make an impact in the community. I immediately wanted to start conversations within the community especially among minorities who, in my experience, often don’t know where to turn to address these emotional and mental challenges. I want to be that person who can empathize with people who have suppressed mental health issues, and allow them to feel safe enough to break the chain of silence.
Here to help
Our focus at LOHF is children’s mental health, and I am thankful to work daily to offer our programs to children, youth, and parents who need them. to help elevate our children, our community, and our society. These resources are imperative to help them on the journey to healthy mind, which will impact all other areas of their lives. I learned firsthand that when your healthy mentally, your physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being is elevated as well. I’m learning so much in my position, and want to continue to be a resource to Lancaster County. The programs I manage include: Children’s Behavioral Health Grants, Mental Health Copay Assistance, LOHF Clinical Supervision Collaborative, Continuing Medical Education, Nursing Scholarships, Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health of Lancaster County, and Navwell.
To learn more about the programs offered at LOHF please visit lohf.org/programs. I am here to listen and help guide you in the right direction. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.