May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a national movement to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health.

Breakthrough’s Behavioral Health program partners with participants across program areas to provide on-site access to medical and mental health care, trauma-informed care, and resources for developing healthy behaviors. Recently, the Behavioral Health team has devoted attention to staff as well.

“Mental Health Awareness Month was the perfect opportunity for us to decide while we’re focusing on our guests and giving them tools, we can also focus on our staff,” said Cheron Massonburg, Chief Program Officer of the Adult Support Network.

Self-Care for Staff

Throughout the month of May, staff at Breakthrough have received resources for mental health, including weekly, virtual Mental Wellness Moments. The moments have included stress relieving exercises, wellness topics, and discussions with professionals.

“The heart behind offering wellness moments is to create a space where staff here at Breakthrough can check in with themselves, get some resources that can help their own self care, and then also get some resources that they can pass on as well,” says Director of Behavioral Health Services Lisa Wiese, LCSW, RDDP.

Lisa says she hopes to de-stigmatize seeking services for mental health and to send the message that it’s ok to ask for help. 

Mental Health, Behavioral Health Director Lisa Wiese in consultation group
Lisa Wiese, Director of Behavioral Health Services, meets with staff in the Behavioral Health Consultation Group.

Additionally, her team has been sharing free virtual events, podcasts, and other tools from leading mental health organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

COVID-19 and Mental Health

The importance of offering these activities comes from a recognition of the impact of the pandemic on staff and the heightened mental health symptoms many have experienced.

We have such a wonderful group of people who have decided to stay committed to the work,” Cheron says, “even in the fear of the unknown, not knowing what or how the pandemic would affect us, our guests, or our clients, people still showed up. I just felt it was important to be checking in on people to make sure they are ok.”

Cheron also recognizes that many of our staff have similar stories and experiences as the population of people who are participating in our programs – often, it’s why we have decided to do this work.

“The expectations of our staff are great, and we have to ensure that they are mentally well and cared for in order to do the work,” she says.

Many Breakthrough staff members have consistently participated in the activities, and because of the positive feedback, the Behavioral Health team is working to expand support for the wellness of staff.

Steps for Mental Wellness

As we draw awareness to mental health this month, Lisa says her biggest piece of advice is to push past the stigma and reach out for help.

A simple act of reaching out can be calling the free, confidential NAMI HelpLine, which allows you to speak to a trained clinician who can provide information and resource referrals. It could also be utilizing the many other telehealth resources available right now.

She also recommends taking time to practice self-care everyday in small ways.

“We may plan for that vacation, we may take that time off,” she says, “but what are the small things that can be as simple as taking a walk, taking a deep, slow breath, taking time to pray, picturing a place where you feel calm and relaxed, or connecting with friends and family.”

It’s asking yourself daily, “What am I doing for my own self care and who can I reach out to check in with?”

“All of us have mental health, or are somewhere on the spectrum of mental health, and can work towards improving our mental health,” Lisa says. “It’s going to look unique for everybody, but as we work on our own mental health, we’re in a position to help others improve theirs.”