Friday, July 1, 2016

My week at MHAC Noyes

By Cara Noyes, DKG member, Music Specialist at Cherry Valley Elementary
    As a music educator, I never realized how 5-gallon buckets and drumsticks could have an impact beyond the walls of Cherry Valley Elementary School. I also had no idea how many folks are struggling with mental health issues (at least 1 in 5!) This summer, thanks to the STEP extern program, I had the amazing opportunity to see the impact of bucket drumming on mental health.
     From June 20-24, I was an extern at Mental Health America of Licking County (MHA).  The STEP program allows area teachers to connect to Licking County business and programs to form connections that are mutually beneficial.  In my week at MHA, I saw many connections to education.  I also foresee many applications of what I learned.

     Monday afternoon I attended a Circle of Hope discussion/social group for teens. One girl recognized me immediately and shouted “Mrs. Noyes! You’re our Special Guest? Awesome!” She told how Cherry Valley was “way better” than middle school. The MHA staff empowered three of the teens to lead the group; these girls devised a lesson plan of activities for the 90-minute session. We played a dice game, illustrated our favorite quote, and talked about facing the challenges of bullying, self-mutilation, low self-image and more.

     Tuesday I spent the day at the Y.E.S. (Youth Engaged in Service) Club. In summer, the clubhouse is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Students receive a free meal, participate in organized group activities, and have opportunities for positive social interaction. MHA executive director Penny Sitler shared at the staff meeting that I play the drums, and I raved about the success of bucket drumming thanks to a Delta Kappa Gamma classroom grant. Since I have plenty of sticks and buckets at the school, I packed a dozen sets in the car. After lunch, the teens had fun learning “We Will Rock You” and other basic rock patterns.  Using YouTube, we listened to some of their favorite tunes and practiced playing along. Incredibly, this noisy activity captured their attention for over an hour! Y.E.S. club has a set of drums and other instruments. Who knows? Perhaps bucket drumming will lead to the formation of the Y.E.S. band!
     On Wednesday, I attended the Youth Advocacy Day Camp held at E. S. Weiant. Students were learning about connecting to their emotions using the Disney/Pixar film Inside Out.  The camp administrator heard about the success of bucket drumming at Y.E.S. club and asked me to return Thursday morning with the drums. We used the instruments to convey feelings of Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness. The students loved making a joyful noise, experimenting with tempo, volume/intensity, timbre, and meter to convey what was in their minds and hearts.

     Also during the week I attended the Art of Recovery, a marvelous, laid-back open studio for art held at The Main Place on N. 3rd Street. MHA also sponsors The Art of Journaling class, where participants find creative ways to outwardly express their inner challenges.  I was amazed to see how recovering addicts were able to capture their pain and confusion on canvas or on paper, and they shared how good it felt to get the feelings out.  Back at MHA in a conference room, others shared feelings in the Depression/Bipolar Support Group (which meets weekly.)

     My week culminated with a Bridges Out of Poverty class called Getting Ahead.  The 18- session course “teaches participants financial literacy, budgeting, life skills, planning, goal setting, communication between socio-economic classes, creating resumes and interviewing skills needed for employment, managing change, managing stress and standing up for themselves.”  At the Spencer House, a 90-day halfway house on Granville Street in Newark, a group of 12 men gathered around the tables with MHA staff. The men discussed their progress in searching for and attaining jobs and apartments, getting social security cards, and planning for their drug-free, jail-free future.  The gentlemen inquired about my job as a teacher, and our session leader mentioned my affinity for drumming.  The guys were excited for hands-on, healthy noise making. As we took the buckets outside, they used pot lids as cymbals, ash cans for cowbells, and tried other creative sound combinations.
     One man shared that he, too, was a musician, a rapper. For the first time since being incarcerated, he shared some of his rhythmic poetry with the group as I laid down a beat. We were all stunned and awed at the depth of his artistry. He shared that rapping never felt so good, because for the first time he was doing it sober and clear-minded. 
     To my right, I noticed a young man whose percussion skills far outshined mine. We asked him to share a drum solo for us, and his beat was incredible! He shared that he was tops in his high school drum line and invested over $15,000 in percussion gear. Then he became addicted to drugs and sold it all to support his habit. That Getting Ahead class was the first time in years that he gripped drumsticks in hand, and his outlook totally shifted. Earlier in the class he had been sullen and disinterested; now his eyes were filled with energy. He asked me, “What do I have to do to get a set of these sticks?” I replied “Stay clean and keep playing.”  I left a pair of sticks for him at the front desk; I hope he keeps drumming. J
“The Vision of Mental Health America is to live in a culture which continually:
  1. Enables mental health awareness, understanding, respect and empathy
  2. Empowers people to live health lives and achieve their full potential
  3. Is free of mental health stigma, prejudice or discrimination
The Mission of Mental Health America of Licking County is to promote and continually reinforce mental health and wellness through education, prevention and advocacy, and eliminate the stigma of mental health issues in our community.”  (www.
During my week at MHA, I saw this vision in action, and do they have a powerful mission in our county! I am so thankful to have seen how MHA affects so many in need in Licking County. I feel blessed that the classroom grant I received for buckets and sticks enabled me to make a difference outside the classroom. Above all, I look forward to all the future connections MHA will have with Newark City Schools to improve the mental health of my students and their families.


Cara Noyes, DKG member, Music Specialist at Cherry Valley Elementary 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Depression and Substance Abuse: The Chicken or the Egg?

Depression and Substance Abuse

There’s a saying in the recovery movement: Alcohol and drug addiction can cause mental illness but mental illness does not cause addiction. However, some mental illnesses, especially those that are not quickly diagnosed and treated, can trigger the use of alcohol and drugs.
Depressive disorders often cause acutely uncomfortable feelings such as overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, numbness, isolation, sleep disorders, digestive and food-related disorders. It is tempting, if medications aren’t being prescribed or used properly, for people suffering from depression to self-medicate.
This can compound the depression and make it far worse. A drink or two, a line of cocaine or two, might temporarily relieve some symptoms, but the backlash when the chemical leaves the body brings the depression to new lows. This “withdrawal depression” happens each time an abused chemical leaves the body, though many people don’t experience severe symptoms at first. The withdrawal depression itself can trigger the use of more alcohol or drugs because they will help get rid of the bad feelings.
Another compounding problem is that if drugs and alcohol are being used while medication is being taken, the alcohol or drugs can actually potentiate—make stronger—or deactivate the medication. Either way, this can put the person in medical danger.
Because of their personal life-shattering experiences with substance abuse, some people in recovery are leery of using any drugs, even prescribed ones. They have faced traumatic experiences with addiction and have a difficult time coming to terms with the necessity for medication intervention. In fact, I have had patients who have quit drinking or drugging the hard way—through willpower or cold turkey—yet are willing to endure the horrible symptoms of depression rather than take medication. Very often their social sober support network advises them to refrain from taking meds. Usually, this is not within the realm of the advisor’s authority. Dually-diagnosed patients (those with both mental illness and addiction) should speak with their psychiatrist about this issue, not a friend, no matter how well-intentioned.
One question I get asked frequently from addiction-treatment patients who are diagnosed with depression after they are diagnosed with an addiction is “did my drinking or drugging cause the depression?” The initial answer is always a resounding “maybe.” A well-trained psychotherapist will often be able to tease out the source of the depression and find out if it existed before the patient came in for addiction treatment. Therapists use a psychosocial evaluation and reports from family, friends, employers, court and police records and the like to help determine which condition occurred first.
Why is it important to know when the depression first occurred? Because someone who had depression before they began to abuse substances will most likely need treatment, including medication intervention, for a longer period of time compared to someone whose depression was caused by the cycle of addiction. Someone whose depression was caused by substance abuse generally will not need the same treatment as someone whose depression preceded his or her substance abuse.
Sometimes when someone comes in for addiction treatment and has a depressive disorder that was caused by addiction, they aren’t able to accurately report what is going on for them. They may be too numb or sad or unable to focus. Or perhaps a less-than-thorough psychosocial evaluation is done. Lack of reporting or inadequate evaluation may prevent the full understanding of whether the depressive disorder preceded or was caused by the substance abuse.
If a patient whose depression was caused by chemical abuse is referred to a treatment track for those who were depressed first and chemically dependent later, within a few weeks he or she usually is asking “what am I doing here? I don’t have these kinds of problems!” In these cases this isn’t necessarily a function of denial but a valid observation due to an original lack of understanding about whether the depression or the addiction came first.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Respect it, Dream it, Do it!by Donna Gibson 

Please respect my fears as they may be different than your own.  Please respect my dreams and vision because they are the only ones I own.  Please respect the decisions I have made, even the ones that haven’t been so good.  I am only leading by the examples that have been previously set for me and understand some of these examples are hard to speak of and not so good.  Please respect that I am trying to make my way in this world and live the life I have been given to explore.  I may have been someone you have seen outside carrying a sign “will work for food” or someone you passed by and handed that dollar to.  I might need help learning and moving ahead.  I am slowly creating new visions, better examples and positive outcomes instead.  Please don’t do things for me.  I want to stand on my own.  Walking beside me means I am never truly alone.  

Donna Gibson is the Bridges Out of Poverty and Parent Support Program Coordinator at Mental Health America of Licking County   

Thursday, May 12, 2016

An Increase in the Suicide Rate

Posted in The New Your Times April 26, 2016

To the Editor:
Re “Sweeping Pain as Suicides Hit a 30-Year High”                                    (front page, April 22):
The report showing a 24 percent increase in suicides should be                         a wake-up call to our country. If we saw numbers like this for any           other cause of death, people would demand action.
The vast majority of people who die as a result of suicide have a    psychiatric condition like depression, bipolar disorder,               schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress. To decrease the number                   of suicides, we need to improve access to care by enforcing the               insurance parity laws so that people are not denied treatment.
We also need to reduce stigma and prejudice against people                       who have a psychiatric illness so that people are not embarrassed                 to seek help. And just as we declared a war on cancer and                     increased funding for research, we need to declare a war on                       mental illness and accelerate the funding of research to improve           treatment.
New York
The writer, a psychiatrist, is president and chief executive of the             Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Internship Experience 

by Jessica Phillips

My name is Jessica Phillips and I am a professional writing intern for Mental Health America of Licking County.  I was given the opportunity to take this internship as a part of my degree program’s coursework.  Throughout the semester we met once a week with our peers, who were also part of the internship program, to discuss what was happening at each internship site.  We also completed various assignments which helped us learn what skills we will need going out into the professional world.  As a final assignment we were asked to write a note to the “future generation” as they enter into the professional world themselves.  Being an intern was my first step, and here was my advice:
“You may not get an internship or job with the exact job description that you are hoping for, but that is the beauty of it.  Be excited about the new path, scared about the unknown, and praise the challenges that got you where you are.  Working with MHALC has taught me a lot about the professional world and how to navigate through the challenges and be flexible.  So my advice is to plan, plan, and plan again.  Always have your dream plan in mind, but keep changing it because life will end up doing it for you anyways.  Be flexible, be scared, and most of all be you.” 

Allowing yourself to be scared or afraid is so important to me.  I believe that overcoming the things that give us fear is what will give us the confidence to do better and do more.  Working with MHALC has been such a rewarding and inspiring experience; every single person in their office is so passionate about their work that it has become contagious.  I am very thankful for my time spent with MHALC and their wonderful staff and especially thankful for time spent with my mentor, Jill Goddard.  
Jessica Phillips was an intern from The Ohio State University Newark Campus