Old habits are hard to break. No one knows this better than retired St. Tammany Parish residents Lou and Betty, married more than 60 years.
Outwardly, Lou was known as a good friend, popular and active in his community. But inwardly, a problem haunted him for most of his marriage. Often and without warning, he flew into extreme fits of verbal rage. Lou always felt ashamed and frustrated after an outburst. Betty felt hurt, helpless and alone. Their friends had no idea.
Over the years, Lou tried getting help through religion or therapists, but nothing worked. When his son tragically took his own life after struggling with depression, the crisis added to Lou’s burden and led him to Volunteers of America. It took a call to our Crisis Response Program for him to finally discover ways to control his rage.
He talked to Suzanne, a licensed social worker with the program, who listened carefully. Suzanne persistently reached out to help the couple, discussing coping skills and encouraging Lou to attend a 12-step program for those with similar challenges. She found him transportation to the meetings. Slowly, Lou learned ways to prevent his escalating anger. He admitted his struggles to others in the program and took responsibility for his actions. And, he discovered the painful truth that he had long suffered from untreated post traumatic stress since his Korean War combat service.
Lou sincerely apologized to Betty for the pain he’d caused over the years. Gradually–with the commitment of Suzanne and group support–Lou’s anger issues have begun to dissolve. Betty says Lou is truly a changed man. “Life is so much better now.”
The Crisis Response Program helps many in St. Tammany cope with behavioral health problems. The goal always is to intervene before a crisis escalates. Our staff is committed to offering hope and real-life solutions. As Lou’s experience shows, it’s never too late, or too early, to ask for help.
James was living under a bridge when he first encountered Volunteers of America. He had been homeless for over 7 years as a result of an untreated mental illness. An outreach associate with Volunteers of America’s Mental Health Services assisted him with getting to a hospital for proper diagnosis and medication. The outreach associate provided James with a case manager who has been dedicated to encouraging James to persevere with his plans for recovery. James has been very committed to his treatment; He never misses a doctor’s visit, nor skips doses of his medication. James has been so successful rebuilding his life, he is now able to live independently. His case manager assisted him with finding his own house. James is ecstatic about living in his new place, which is located in the neighborhood where he grew up.
James will receive treatment for his mental illness for the rest of his life. He is very grateful that with the assistance of Volunteers of America he is able to find stability and make plans for his future.
Jamie is one of the thousands that Volunteers of America serves. She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she lives now. She is a massage therapist and she loves her job because “I get to help people relax and feel better” she says. She has a beautiful daughter, Sabrina, who is 12, and a son, Blake, who is 7. She has a good life with her children and they have fun doing things as a family.
Her life wasn’t always this happy. It’s been full of twists and turns. As a teen, she drank alcohol…and more. She went to school irregularly, only about 3 days a week. Mostly, she says she smoked weed and drank. Jamie was drifting in dangerous directions. In her late 20’s she and her children became homeless. It was then she decided she needed help and she called Volunteers of America. We provided the help she needed…counseling, help with finding a place to live and more importantly says Jamie “they gave me a sense of my own worth.” Volunteers of America’s Mental Health program provides services to people with mental illness and who are homeless by helping them live independently in the community.
Melissa Haley, Director of Supportive Services for Volunteers of America appeared as a guest on WWL TV with Sally Ann Roberts this morning. Melissa spoke about Volunteers of America’s Mental Health Services. It was noted that anytime there is a crisis, i.e. hurricane, floods, tornadoes, it spikes mental health issues in individuals whether they are directly affected by the disasters or not. Melissa noted that Volunteers of America will come to you if the individual needing mental health services cannot come to the office or would rather meet in another location. For more information on Volunteers of America’s Mental Health Services you can call us at 504.483.3550.
The following is a story about Mike from our Mental Health Services program, which serves people with chronic mental illness and who are homeless by helping them live independently in the community.
Mike came to Volunteers of America having no contact with any of his relatives. He now believes that the support he receives from our staff helps him to fill this void. With Volunteers of America’s help, he successfully obtained an Automotive Technology certificate from Delgado Community College. Mike desired to continue his education and re-enrolled at Delgado to obtain an associate’s degree. After his car broke down, Volunteers of America helped Mike find an apartment closer to campus – he had been commuting from the Westbank to City Park.
Recently, through a partnership between Volunteers of America, Unity for the Homeless, and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, Mike was able to secure a Section 8 housing voucher, which has allowed him to continue his path towards independence. This was a great accomplishment for Mike and a fine example of how the services Volunteers of America offers can equip individuals to make the best out of the hands they have been dealt.
The following is a story about an individual who receives services from our Mental Health Services program, which serves people with chronic mental illness and who are homeless by helping them live independently in the community.
Bill started receiving services from Volunteers of America in August of 2006. He sought stability; he’d lost his home and all of his possessions after Hurricane Katrina hit. The relative with whom he was living at the time could no longer able accommodate Bill, his spouse, and their four sons.
Compounding this was a history of mental health illness. Bill suffered from depression, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Despite this, Bill expressed his desire to become stable again and to be a healthy and caring father to his family. The road to recovery was difficult, however – Bill was hospitalized after not taking his medications properly, which affected his relationship with his family. Bill’s wife made several calls expressing her frustration at her husband’s behavior.
Bill realized that the only way to achieve the stability he sought was to comply with proper medication intake. Since then, he has been receiving injections once a month. This has had a dramatic effect on his behavior – he has returned to taking courses at school daily and will soon be testing for his GED.
After obtaining his GED, Bill plans to further his education by enrolling in college to study business. He would like to open a convenience store with his wife.
Bill has moved into new housing and reports that his relationship with his family has improved.
The following is a story from our Mental Health Services program, which serves people with chronic mental illness and who are homeless to live independently in the community.
Albert lived without a home for over 5 yrs. In April 2009, he was enrolled in our PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) program, which addresses the needs of individuals that are homeless, mentally ill, and substance abusers. PATH provides outreach case managers and workers an opportunity to search for homeless individuals throughout the streets of New Orleans, St. Bernard and Jefferson Parish.
The Outreach Team met with Albert and began talking to him, attempting to build a relationship. During the first several meetings, Albert was very shy and quiet, not giving too much information. However, through repeated contact and persuasion, he began talking with staff and befriended them. Albert discussed the death of his mother and family members who tried to take advantage of him for his money. Albert also revealed he was depressed. Staff referred him to a behavioral health clinic.
Albert began treatment and became stable on his medication. He was then referred to our PATH Outreach Case Manager, Ms. Marlene Chandler, to help him with housing and employment. Shortly after being accepted into our Case Management Program, Albert was housed in the Algiers area and was able to obtain a job with Burger King. Currently, Albert is living independently and continues to work different jobs to maintain his independence.
Click here to read a piece from WWL about New Orleans’ mental health delivery system post-Katrina, featuring Rebecca Thees, our Coordinator of Disaster Related Services.
Click here to read a piece from the Times-Picayune about mental health issues in post-Katrina New Orleans, also featuring Rebecca Thees.