Ending the Silence
Help for Depression in Stanislaus County
By Noel Daniel – Resources at the bottom of this article.
Lisa Sanchez had a very rough start in life. She was diagnosed very early with Rapid Cycling Bipolar disorder, meaning her condition could cycle from manic to depressive in as quickly as a four hour span. In fact, Sanchez was an exception to most rules—she was suicidal at the age of four.
“I had a hard life, started medication at ﬁve,” said Sanchez, who’s now 28. “Because of that, I have severe memory loss from my childhood. I’ve taken over 30 medications.”
According to Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS), “1 of every 4 individuals in California could be living with a mental illness.” And as much as half of the population could, at some point, end up experiencing mental illness symptoms. Thankfully, our county has help in the way of Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) programs—which could have greatly helped Sanchez back when she suffered with the illness.
Because of the situation she faced to receive mental health treatment—including appointments three times a week—, Sanchez missed a lot of school. She suffered both socially and academically.
“To me, mental health was my whole life from the get-go,” said Sanchez. “I had to work on that before anything. I felt like I was my diagnosis for so many years.”
Prevention programs came about in full force in response to the Mental Health Services Act, also known as Proposition 63. The state proposition was passed over a decade ago in November 2004 and from that, one of the components focused on a community-lead process that would bolster prevention and early intervention efforts for mental health.
“PEI programs are community focused and target underserved communities,” said Dan Rosas, Manager II, MHSA Policy-Planning and Public Information Ofﬁcer for Stanislaus County BHRS. “Stanislaus County has rural communities where access to mental health services can be a challenge.”
These services focus on reducing stigma in mental health in culturally responsive ways, reaching out to underserved ethnic groups, and supporting different community-led groups bent on reducing stigma, like RAIZ—a model that was designed among Latino community leaders who have agencies supporting them to promote mental health.
Sanchez, herself, works to raise awareness and tackle stigma.
“I speak in High Schools in a program we have called ‘Ending the Silence,’” said Sanchez. “I also speak at MJC for ‘In Our Own Voice.’ ‘End the Silence’ educates about the warning signs of mental illness, suicide prevention, and how to help a friend if they’re struggling. The last 10 minutes is where I tell the story from when I was diagnosed to where I am now to show that you can do everything you want to do.”
Sanchez does a lot of these talks with the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a grassroots group of individuals with various lived experiences of mental illness. They are trained to teach and lead NAMI programs by professionals, and all their written material is written by those with training in the ﬁeld of mental health.
“We also speak about our experience to community churches, clubs, and reach out to Spanish parents, too,” said Lynn Padlo, Director of NAMI Stanislaus. “Another presentation we do is for police and highway patrol ofﬁcers so they will have understanding of the lived experience of mental illness.”
Sanchez’s experience started with Modesto Junior College (MJC)’s NAMI group—in fact, both colleges in the area have a dedicated NAMI chapter. California State University, Stanislaus (CSUS)’s NAMI group came to campus with the help of Marnye Henry, the leader of Connections, a peer-led support group. These groups are peer-run and facilitated to make sure that all members can talk as equals. CSUS’ NAMI group meets every ﬁrst and third Tuesday.
“It’s been so helpful for students to talk about what they go through, if they’re taking medication, if they’re not taking medication, how they deal with their depression,” said Henry. “And being part of the group allows them to be themselves and not hide behind their illness, not having to have a painted face on as they walk around campus.”
Talking was an ideal therapy for Sanchez, too. Her reliable ﬁgure in her life is her grandmother.
“Being able to vent to someone who isn’t judging you is the best,” said Sanchez. “That’s what I tell my kids every time I speak—any ﬁgure that you have that will help you with something like this is someone to hold on to. Could be a teacher, doesn’t have to be a parent.”
“I remember when I accepted my illness,” said Sanchez, “I was 20, I was in therapy, and I found out I was pregnant. They were going to have to take me off my medicine. From that point on, I decided to accept my illness and I’ve successfully raised [my son] for seven years by myself.”
Sanchez found out a way to manage her illness. She journaled and made a list of all her priorities, keeping her focused for everyday tasks. She practices healthy coping mechanisms, like eating right, getting seven to nine hours of sleep, not napping, and sitting in the sun. She’s also majoring in mental health and gotten very involved with NAMI, acting as the NAMI club president at MJC. Now she’s making her illness work for her.
“If I’m having a manic high and I have energy and I don’t know what to do with it, I’ll do all my homework in one day, or clean the whole house in one day,” said Sanchez. “So I can have that gap where I fall apart and have my downtime. I have to be ready and roll with the punches.”
Sanchez believes that anything good is worth fighting for. She would have never pictured that she’d be doing what she’s doing now. Every time she speaks, sanchez says she gets a feeling of uplifting power seeing how the kids relate to her story.
“I had to take it and make it my own,” said Sanchez. “Enough of the label— let me just work with the coping skills to see what helps for me. I took a little from everyone and made it my own. I had to ﬁght for it. I had to really work hard to get to where I am right now.”
National Suicide Prevention Week is coming up on Sept. 5 through 11, but no matter the time of year, it’s always important to know the signs.
“Know the signs, ﬁnd the words, and don’t be afraid to reach out,” stated Dr. Madelyn Schlaepfer, Director of Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services. “The warning signs aren’t always obvious but some things to look for are reckless behavior, feeling hopeless, anger, withdrawal, as well as actually talking about wanting to die or complete suicide.”
Several tell-tale signs that Henry shared are: Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks; severe mood swings; drastic change in behavior, personality, or sleeping habits; sudden overwhelming fear for no reason; not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives for serious weight loss or gain; intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities; and others listed on integral sources like stanupforwellness.org.
There’s a 24-hour national suicide prevention hotline that supports anyone in crisis. If you or someone you know is having thoughts about self-harm, the phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
In addition, BHRS has the 24 Hour Crisis and Peer Support Services line, 209-558-4600 and an Access line, 1-888-376-6246, where Medi-Cal beneﬁciaries looking for ongoing mental health services can call. There’s also a website at www. stancounty.com/bhrs.
For More Information About Mental Wellness, or if you need help, please call any of the above contacts or refer to the resources below.
BHRS PEI Services and Outreach
- Golden Valley Health Center 209-553-5011
- Catholic Charities 209-529-3784
- West Modesto King Kennedy Center 209-522-6902
- Area Aging and Veterans Services 209-558-8698
- Parents United 209-527-4682
- El Concilio (Council for the Spanish Speaking) 209-523-2860
- Peer Recovery Art Project: 209-581-1695
- Ceres 209-541-0101
- Hughson 209-883-2027
- North Modesto/Salida 209-338-0279
- Newman 209-862-0295
- Oakdale 209-847-5121
- Patterson 209-892-6688
- Riverbank 209-869-0468
- Turlock 209-668-6118
- West Modesto 209-522-6902
BASICS: 6-week education class for parents and other caregivers of youth living with mental illness.
Ending the Silence: Program to lessen stigma and raise awareness about mental illness in teenagers.
Parents and Teachers as Allies: Presentation to support staff, teachers and parents; includes tips.
In Our Own Voice: Presentation which features two individuals who tell their journey of recovery.
Family to Family: English/Spanish. 12-week class for family members, partners or friends of a person who has a mental illness. It covers all major mental illnesses and is taught by two trained family members.
Peer to Peer: 10 week class, taught by individuals with a mental illness who have been trained. It deals with facts about illnesses as well as how to maintain recovery.
Provider Training: 5 week class to help providers, teachers, professionals, collaborate with family members to better serve the clients.
AWC (Assyrian Wellness) Collaborative: 209-541-2555
SAACR (Stanislaus Asian American Community Resource) Collaborative: 209-996-9638
LGTBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, and Questioning) Collaborative: 559-280-3864