Mental health workshop in West Philadelphia

Community organizer Leon Robinson Jr. is concerned about the stigma attached to mental illness. So, he organized a mental health awareness workshop at the Community College West Regional on Wednesday, Oct 29 at 6:30 p.m.

“I felt there was a need for folks to start addressing mental health,” Robinson said. “Mental health is a difficult thing to talk about.”

The idea came to Robinson when a woman approached him when she was at a loss for what to do about her four-year-old daughter’s behavior. As a result, Robinson decided that information on mental and behavioral issues should be more accessible to residents.

“I have to find more ways to get this information out there,” Robinson said. “How can we get this out there today?”

Members from The Consortium discussed where neighbors can turn to in times of mental health crisis.

For those not familiar with The Consortium, it is a nonprofit Community Mental Health Center founded in 1967 with a focus directed towards delivering services to neighbors in West and Southwest Philadelphia, and also throughout the city. Regardless of income, behavioral healthcare needs are addressed. Adults, children and senior citizens can access its behavioral health care programs and services.

Members from The Consortium spoke at the mental health awareness workshop.

Members from The Consortium spoke at the mental health awareness workshop.

Raymond Harrod, director of the Psychosocial Program, works with with the Community Integrated Recovery Center (CIRC). His job is to accept individuals who have had mental illness for a period of time. The program focuses on teaching patients to heal through a program of their choosing.

Members of the program choose their own goals, Harrod said. For example, one patient’s goal may be to “get the voices to stop” or to earn a BA degree.

At that point in the workshop, Harrod organized a small role play with two participants from the audience. Two volunteers played the parts of a patient with schizophrenia and the voices plaguing said patient.

One volunteer played the schizophrenic patient, while the second volunteer and Harrod played two different voices whispering in the patient’s ears simultaneously. The goal of the role play was to simulate what schizophrenic patients experience regularly.

Supported Employment Coordinator Doug Tillman is in charge of a department at The Consortium that helps mental health patients find employment.

“It doesn’t matter whether you have schizophrenia or mild depression,” Tillman said.

He explains that many people go through a period in which they are unemployed and feel like they cannot provide for their families.

“People who have anxiety and depression are more confounded by the feelings that come with not being able to work.” he said.

At Tillman’s program, there are always staff members willing and available to help people to use the computers and to find work. In fact, a lot of people on staff have experience with mental health issues, either personally diagnosed or as caretakers.

Consortium psychologist Dr. Carter explained that 26 percent of the United States population has mental illness. The problem is that there is a stigma attached to it, so people are afraid to get the help they need.

For psychiatric emergencies, The Consortium also offers a Mobile Crisis Unit for individuals 18 and older and for businesses located in the West Philadelphia area. A person who is in a severe mental health crisis such as suicide may be persuaded to get more intensive treatment at a hospital.

Some of its services include on-site evaluations, arranging voluntary and involuntary hospitalization, and crisis intervention. People can get referrals from Mercy Crisis Response Center, and through Philadelphia Behavioral Health System.

Michelle Tatom with the Functional Family Therapy said the Mobile Crisis Unit will go anywhere it is called to, including but not limited to shelters, homes, churches and schools.

Mental health issues are not the only problems that are difficult to talk about, as Gwendolyn White, director of Medication Assisted Treatment Program, pointed out. The Consortium also helps people with addiction..

White works in the methadone rehab at 451 University Ave. She said uses only methadone, and patients must be 18 years or older with a history of opiate use in order to be considered for the program. Also, people must have tried other treatment options prior to methadone before being considered for treatment.

To find out about more of The Consortium’s services, check out their website at http://www.consortium-inc.org/biographies.html. To contact the Mobile Crisis Unit, email mobilecrisis@consortium-inc.org.