June 29, 2015 - by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
Few topics are as difficult to talk about as mental health. That reality leads many members of our community to struggle with depression, anxiety, addiction and more – all in silence. A Milford-based nonprofit has been battling the fear and confusion around mental health since 1957. Their efforts need our attention.
Bridges...A Community Support System, Inc. provides comprehensive mental health and addictions services to individuals of all ages. Their work focuses on residents living in Milford, Orange and West Haven. However, their reach extends well beyond. Through training services, media outreach and fundraising activities, the organization raises vital awareness for mental and behavioral health issues throughout Connecticut.
In July 2015, Bridges is holding a Mental Health First Aid Training. To date, the organization has provided 6,735 individuals with this important tool. Participants in the program earn continuing education credits while learning how to handle mental health emergencies such as panic attacks, suicide attempts, drug overdoses and more. Teachers, health professionals and first-responders are particularly good candidates for the training, but all are welcome as this knowledge is essential in supporting the health and safety of the community. Bridges A Community Support System is hosting a community event on September 27, 2015 to promote mental health.
At the heart of every Bridges program is a focus on person-centered support. This individualized approach encompasses a wide range of services including 24-hour mental crisis support, tobacco cessation programs, vocational training, psychiatric services and more.
"When individuals come to us in need of help we take a wraparound approach," explains Director of Fund Development & Communications, Marcy Hotchkiss. "We are not just focused on their immediate health concern or challenge; we are dedicated to empowering them so that they can meet their goals and live productive, fulfilling lives."
The supportive, confidential counselors and staff at Bridges are very protective of their clients. This is a crucial component of making people feel comfortable and safe. However, it means that sharing the organization's numerous success stories is a challenge. One such success, a young man in his 20's, is happy to share his personal story and experience with the organization, as the support he received truly changed his life. Omar. Photo courtesy of Bridges A Community Support System.
Omar connected with Bridges at the urging of his aunt, who felt his behavior had become reckless and worrisome. Having recently returned to Connecticut from Syria (his family left the US when he was 3), he was adjusting to a new culture while working at the family business. He longed to be "more American." He wanted to improve his English and earn his GED in order to gain a more fulfilling job. Like many young adults, Omar wanted to establish his independence, finding his own place instead of living with an aunt and uncle. In the midst of these challenges, his beloved sister passed away from cancer, leaving him grief-stricken and overwhelmed with depression.
Omar's Bridges Clinician, Grace Thomas, introduced him to Jen Downing, the organization's Vocational Counselor. Using a team approach, the three individuals worked together to assist Omar in getting healthier while working toward his goals.
Omar continued to work and take classes. Through perseverance, he secured a better job, one he really wanted with a national package delivery company that offers room for growth. He is now able to afford an apartment, and he is nearing the completion of an English as a Second Language course. When that is finished, he plans to take the test to earn his GED.
Grateful for the care he received at Bridges, Omar shares, "Everyone's great, I had the best treatment and was treated like a king. I feel like I'm home here." He has not only achieved many of his goals, creating a more fulfilling, enjoyable life for himself, but he has re-envisioned his future. Omar now dreams of going to college.
"I have no doubt that he will be successful, as he has already come so far! He is a true success already," said Hotchkiss.
Recently, a $100,000 general operating support grant from the Anne Hope Bennett and George W. Mixter preference funds at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven was awarded to ensure the provision of valuable services to adults like Omar, as well as the prevention, mental health and addiction recovery programs Bridges offers to children and families.