Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 10 - APA Mental Health Day: Frames of Mind Exhibit

In honor of Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day and May being Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, Richmond Area Multi-Services, Inc. (RAMS) is proudly partnering with Kearny Street Workshop to hold a photography exhibit titled “Frames of Mind”. This exhibit features the work of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who participated in a 7-class workshop series, telling stories about mental health through photography.

Here are the Frames of Mind exhibit details:
      Frames of Mind exhibit: May 10-13, 2016 (please check the Center’s website for gallery hours)
      FREE Public Reception: May 10, 2016 (4:00pm to 7:00pm)
      International Hotel Manilatown Center
      868 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

About Mental Health Conditions:
  • About one in five Americans in a given year are impacted by mental health conditions regardless of gender, age, race, religion and socioeconomic status. (NIMH) 
  • Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders appear to have extremely low utilization of mental health services relative to other U.S. populations. (NAMI) This may be due to the substantial stigma that exists and cultural & linguistic isolation of the community, family and individual.
  • The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States. Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and suicide. (NAMI)
  •  Treatments for mental health conditions today are highly effective and individuals who receive treatment have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life.
Many factors contribute to mental health concerns such as biological, life experiences (e.g. trauma, immigration, housing instability), and family history of mental health conditions. When someone starts to experience the early warning signs of mental illness, knowing the risks factors and symptoms will help. Often times, family and friends are the first to support a person through these early stages. Asking for help is never a sign of weakness and wellness & recovery is always possible.

The press release is below (right-click and select any option to "Open").

Monday, April 25, 2016

Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate ADVANCED COURSE -- Now Accepting Applications for the Summer 2016 Cohort!

RAMS is excited to announce that the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program is now accepting applications for its 8-week Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Advanced Course, with classes set to begin on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016!

Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program (part of the Division of Peer-Based Services at RAMS) provides training for consumers of behavioral health services or their family members who are interested in becoming peer counselors/peer specialists in the field of community behavioral health. In addition to the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Entry Level Course that is currently offered, RAMS has designed its Advanced Course to support and educate individuals who are providing, or have recently provided peer-based services to clients in the community (or possess relevant training, volunteer and/or educational experience), and would like to obtain more specialized peer counseling training and professional development opportunities.

We are looking for individuals who:
  • Are at least 18 years of age and a resident of San Francisco,
  • Have successfully completed at least a High School education or GED, and
  • Are able to attend 8 weeks of classes, which will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays (3PM-6PM).
  • This program is funded by MHSA through San Francisco Behavioral Health Services. As such, the course is targeted to individuals (or family members) with personal experience with receiving behavioral health services.
  • Individuals with current or past work experience, education, and/or training (including volunteer and advocacy work) in the peer counseling field are highly encouraged to apply
Application and Course Timeline:
  • Friday, April 22nd: Application Release
  • Tuesday, May 3rd & Friday, May 6th: Optional Informational Open Houses
  • Wednesday, May 25th @ 5PM: Application Submission Deadline
  • Week of June 1st, 2016: Notification of Application Status
  • Tuesday, June 14th, 2016: First Day of Class
  • Thursday, August 4th, 2016: Last Day of Class & Graduation
Materials are available for download at: http://www.ramsinc.org/peer.php. Please feel free to contact Program Coordinator, Kristin Snell, at (415) 579-3021 x102, or via email at kristinsnell@ramsinc.org should you have any questions or would like any additional information.

Monday, April 18, 2016

2016 Richmond Community Health Festival on Saturday, May 7th

RAMS is proud to be a co-sponsor along with San Francisco District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar, California District 19 Assembly member Phil Ting, Kaiser Permanente, Compassionate Community Care, and Self-Help for the Elderly for the Richmond Community Health Festival.

The purpose of this free health festival is to encourage a healthy lifestyle and provide access to resources that help meet the health needs of our diverse community.

The Health Festival will feature FREE health screenings and medication review along with FREE giveaways, cooking demonstrations, health education offered by about 40 community health organizations, children’s activities and family fun.

When: Saturday, May 7, 2016, 10 am - 2 pm

Where: Richmond Recreation Center, 251 18th Avenue (at Clement), San Francisco

Monday, April 4, 2016

Asian Family Institute - integrated care

RAMS is extremely proud to announce the launch of the Asian Family Institute, integrated care (AFI-ic), which offers innovative and comprehensive mental health consultation and treatment through a holistic, integrated approach for the Asian & Pacific Islander American (APIA) population in the San Francisco Bay Area. It utilizes both conventional and complementary therapies in the treatment of mental health concerns and services are available in English and Chinese. Together, a therapist and acupuncturist & traditional Chinese medicine practitioner can work to provide personalized treatments to suit each person's lifestyle and promote self-awareness and resources for self-care. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the dominant medical practices used in many Asian countries, and treatments may include functional and nutritional assessments, acupuncture, and breathing and meditation exercises.

Asian & Pacific Islander Americans individuals frequently face complex mental health issues that require holistic medical and psychological care. Moving beyond demographic and cultural factors that may be a barrier to mental health care utilization for APIA individuals, the Asian Family Institute, integrated care is a remarkable step toward addressing systematic issues, by providing culturally responsive and linguistically sensitive services.

Deeply embedded in Chinese and many APIA cultures, individuals who are facing mental health issues are often encouraged to try their best to endure 忍 (ren); they may be discouraged to seek psychological services in order to try to save face, preserve their reputation, and not humiliate their family. With cultural pressures to suppress negative mood states, and the stigma against sharing experiences of psychological symptoms, individuals may feel reluctant to express concerns regarding mental health issues. Research on illness beliefs of depressed Chinese American patients reveals that they are more inclined to complain about somatic symptoms instead. Because of these issues, it is quite common for APIA individuals to feel more comfortable seeking out a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner rather than a mental health clinician, although they would also benefit from being in therapy.

For those struggling with conditions affecting the body and mind, such as chronic pain and low mood or energy, the AFI-ic provides clients the option of choosing either a comprehensive mental health evaluation, a traditional Chinese medicine assessment, or both - for a uniquely integrated approach. The health care providers at the AFI-ic clinic are distinctively qualified and experienced in treating Asian & Pacific Islander American individuals, approaching care collaboratively and with an open mind.

For more information, please contact AFI's Intake Coordinator at (415) 668-5025.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Peer Wellness Center Now Welcomes You

RAMS Division of Peer-Based Services is extremely pleased and proud to announce that our Peer Wellness Center is now open. We are located at 1282 Market Street (Market & 9th Streets), San Francisco, CA 94102. Hours and days of operation are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

RAMS Peer Wellness Center is an early engagement Center for adults seeking peer-based counseling services and peer-led activity groups. The Center serves as a safe place for peer participants to gain empowerment skills within an environment that utilizes empathy and peer support to help promote and inspire recovery. This Center supports consumers of San Francisco Behavioral Health Services that may face mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

The Peer Wellness Center offers activities, facilitated by Peer Counselors, that include but are not limited to: Peer-to Peer Support Groups, Healthy Living Workshops, Creative Arts Expression, Skills Building Classes, Community Social Events and On-Site Recreational Activities.

We welcome consumers, clinicians, and community partners to call, email or visit us during our Walk-In times to learn more about the Center. Below is a flyer that you can freely share as well as a referral form to assist us with establishing eligibility for services. Please note that the referral form is optional and assists us with the process of accepting participants into the program and developing an individual wellness plan. Individuals are welcome to enroll on their own. Click HERE to download the referral form.

We are excited about this new program and we are very much looking forward to the promotion of wellness and recovery services within our Peer Community!

The Center is open to consumers of Behavioral Health Services (SFDPH).

Peer Wellness Center Open House and in celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

From Baghdad To The Bay

The extraordinary journey of Mr. Ghazwan Alsharif, the Chef at RAMS Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility, is the subject of the upcoming documentary From Baghdad to The Bay. For the past eight years, Erin Palmquist, independent filmmaker and director of the documentary, has been capturing on film the compelling story of Ghazwan’s life.

When Ghazwan was growing up, he dreamed of being a painter and artist. Born in Baghdad, he shared that is from a wealthy and well-known family of diplomats. Becoming an artist was not a path his family approved of. He learned to enjoy cooking at home from his parents, but cooking was not seen as a career path. In line with his family’s wishes, he pursued a degree in Office Management.

In 2003, while still in Iraq, Ghazwan became a translator for the U.S. Military. However, the Iraqis did not trust translators for the U.S. Army, and after a month in the position, Ghazwan’s family told him to quit. But, as he explained, he did not quit and subsequently his family disowned him. During that time, he camped out at the U.S. Army base. That December, the U.S. Army became suspicious of him and threw him in jail, where he was then reportedly tortured for 75 days. “I have patience. I’ve learned to be patient,” Ghazwan shared.

In 2005, Ghazwan went into exile and moved to Jordan; it wasn’t until 2008 that he was granted refugee status and sent to Oakland, California through the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC introduced Erin Palmquist, Jennifer Huang, and Karena O’Rirodan to Ghazwan, who was excited to share his story with the filmmakers.

Photo from www.frombaghdadtothebay.com

From Baghdad to the Bay captures the drama in Ghazwan’s life. Upon moving to the United States, he thought he was in a safe country, but one night, random people jumped him and knocked him down. His roommates called an ambulance and Ghazwan was then in the ER overnight. Afterward, his mental health declined and he went through a period of depression. “I had depression. I’ve been mugged,” Ghazwan shared.

“When you are in depression, you want to talk to someone and let it out,” Ghazwan shared. As a very social person, he started building a family in the Bay Area. “I have a son [in another country], and had to leave him, but I cannot see him. When I came here, I started building a family. I’m very social; I’m very friendly, so I have tons and tons of friends. I’m very loving to them, and they are very loving to me.” One of his friends took him to a therapist to talk and alleviate the depression. “Depression can cause a lot of harm, some people even kill themselves. For me, I knew I could get over it. I have patience,” he shared.

 “The documentary basically talks about how I grew up and survived in the jungle; about how you can get over things, with the tough life that you have. I started here from zero and now I have a successful story,” Ghazwan explained.

The documentary also talks about Ghazwan coming out. He didn’t come out when he first arrived to the United States. “One day I looked online and I saw people getting killed because of their sexuality, so I thought it was time for someone to do something and step up and step out, so I said I am a gay man.” He began supporting the Middle Eastern LGBT community in the Bay Area by starting the group Asheq, which means “love” in Arabic. “I support them and do a lot of activities with them,” he shared. Every two months, they have a dance party with fun music and it helps them build the much needed sense of community and belonging.

Photo from www.frombaghdadtothebay.com

Ghazwan has been working for RAMS as the Chef at the Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility for just over a year now, and he loves it. Cooking is his passion. “It’s the easiest job I’ve ever done. I tell them all the time that I love it. I like the clients; the coworkers are amazing, and the staff.” He is also a party promoter and runs his own catering business called Plates.

What makes Ghazwan happiest in the Bay Area is that he gets to be himself. He said, “I’m being myself. I’m not lying to myself. I’m in San Francisco, and that’s really a nice place to stay. I’m working at RAMS and I’m happy here. I love cooking. It’s something to make me happy. They call me, even if I have a phone call at 5 a.m. or 4 a.m., I come here to see the clients/residents. Cooking makes me happy. When I wake up, I’m blessed, because I get to work on something that I love and I’m getting paid for it,” he said.

From Baghdad to The Bay has just launched its fundraising campaign on February 25th, in order to raise money for post-production. The trailer has been released, along with the link for the donation page. The campaign has match funding by Beacon, who is matching the first $10,000.

“We have been doing this for 8 years. It’s very stressing. When I see myself I’m like, ‘Wow!’ The trailer shows some dramatic things that have happened to me, but I’m survivor. I’m happy and healthy.”

When asked about his future, Ghazwan said, “My goal is to have my own restaurant, and to see my son, who is in the United Kingdom, with my ex-wife.” Ghazwan has been on competitive cooking shows three times, including Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network and a show called Food Chain. “I’m still trying to [get on the] show Chopped. If I win the money, I’m going to see my son.”

For more information about the film and to donate, please visit:
https://twitter.com/baghdadtothebay   #TellGhazwansStory

From Baghdad to The Bay Teaser from Erin Palmquist on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

RAMS is honored to receive the 2015 Grant from The Sophia Mirviss Memorial Fund

This summer, the Child, Youth, and Family Program at RAMS, Inc. was awarded a grant from the Sophia Mirviss Fund. The Fund was established in 1957 to honor Sophia Mirviss, M.D., a child analyst and pioneer in bringing psychoanalytic thought and practice to everyone who worked with children. She was particularly dedicated to reaching out to those who worked with children from economically disadvantaged communities.

Our grant proposal was to explore how to bring psychoanalytic ideas to work with children in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). RAMS clinicians are involved in the SOAR (Success, Opportunity, Achievement, Resiliency) Academy program, a classroom for students with severe emotional needs. Additional support, including on-site mental health services, and resources are provided with the goal of helping these students be able to return to a regular classroom. There are myriad challenges to a traditional therapeutic model in this setting. Students often have mixed feelings about being in the program in general, much less in therapy. Teachers tend to prioritize education. The schools themselves are not set up to promote a confidential, self-enclosed space to explore internal worlds.

We applied for the grant in order to provide a space for our clinicians to grapple with the challenges to the model, and to consider what psychoanalysis can contribute to clinical work in a school.

Once we were awarded the grant, the first task was to find a consultant who would be a good fit for the project we had proposed.  We were fortunate to find Audrey Dunn, LCSW, a proverbial needle in a haystack.  She has both provided mental health services in various collaborations with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) for decades (in an adolescent day treatment program, on-site at middle school, etc.) and is actively involved in the psychoanalytic community.

We began the program in September, two monthly meetings held throughout the school year (Sept 2015- June 2016):  a reading group facilitated by the project coordinator and a consultation group.  Dr. Loong Kwok, a supervising psychologist who is part of the CYF team at RAMS, assigns readings in advance of his group (with input from Ms. Dunn based on what comes up in the consultation group) and discusses the readings with the clinicians.  Ms. Dunn provides a space for the clinicians to apply the readings to their experiences of running groups in the SOAR Academy classrooms and have clinical discussions with their colleagues.

Clinicians participating in the training series have observed that they are incorporating the ideas they’ve been reading when running the groups.  In addition to attending to behaviors, they  have also been paying attention to how the individuals interact with each other in the therapy group, and how the group itself fits into the school.  We have come up with some answers to specific questions about how to incorporate psychoanalytic approaches to our school-based groups. We are still working on joining these together into a cohesive plan. In the coming months, we will be considering the specific contributions of ethnicity and trauma in this work. By this summer, we believe that we can create a list of questions that need to be answered as we continue group therapy within the school system, and a list of preliminary answers.

Photo credit - Noel Z Gondek on Flickr