Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Depression: Pathways to Resilience and Recovery" event on September 13

The UCSF Depression Center and its Community Advisory Board (of which RAMS is a member), the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will present "Depression: Pathways to Resilience and Recovery," a day-long event looking at the diagnosis, treatment, and impact of depression this Saturday (September 13) at UCSF's Cole Hall.

The symposium will feature a multitude of workshops on topics such as advances in treatment, depression’s impact on relationships, online tools for assessment and treatment, suicide prevention, and strategies for self-care and supporting loved ones. The event will also feature presentations by California Highway Patrol officer and "Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge" Sgt. Kevin Briggs, suicide attempt survivor Kevin Berthia, and director/writer/producer David Zucker.

 "Depression: Pathways to Resilience and Recovery" is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested. To find out more program details, download the flyer, and register now, visit

To view the  flyer below, right-click and select any option to "Open".

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summertime and The Learnin’ is Easy (and Over)

Today's guest post is from Danni Biondini, MA, Behavioral Health Counselor at RAMS who also serves as the Program Coordinator for the Summer Bridge program, which is an 8-week summer mentoring program for San Francisco high school students, designed "to promote awareness of psychological well-being and foster interest in the helping professions".
RAMS Summer Bridge has completed its fifth summer! A diverse group of youth, between the ages of 16-19, graduated from this MHSA-funded workforce development program. The program culminated in a graduation ceremony at California Institute of Integral Studies on Thursday, July 31st. The participants celebrated with their families, as well as RAMS staff/administration. Each of the 25 participants received a certificate of completion, as well as a stipend check for their involvement.

Over the course of the 8-week program, the participants learned about working in the field of Psychology and the helping professions. Through guest speakers and field trips, they met with licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and professional clinical counselors. One of the highlights of the program was the field trip to Psychiatric Emergency Services at San Francisco General Hospital, where the participants saw firsthand what it’s like to work in a psychiatric emergency room. Another participant cited visiting the RAMS Fu Yau Project as her favorite experience, since learning about preschool mental health consultation strengthened her resolve to become a child psychologist.

 Besides learning about the various paths to working in the mental health field, the participants were introduced to basic listening and counseling skills, ideas about stigma and the origins of mental illness, and strategies for practicing self-care. They presented final projects on some of the topics that interested them more, including: eating disorders, the intergenerational transmission of trauma.

The youth developed strong relationships with each other, with the three peer mentors, and with the three staff members. One of the most notable comments that the staff received was that
Summer Bridge was the only place some of these youth have ever felt comfortable to be themselves. 
More than just an opportunity to learn, this program provided a new template for social experiences with peers.

 Now, the participants will return to high school, or head off to college, with this new knowledge about steps to take for their futures. All participants are invited to join Youth Council, the youth advisory board for RAMS, which meets throughout the school year. After the program ended, Summer Bridge hosted an end-of-summer reunion for this year’s cohort to meet previous cohorts. To further build upon and sustain lasting relationships, Summer Bridge will host another reunion in the winter.

For more details about this program, visit

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Introducing the Awardees of the 2014 Staff Awards for Outstanding Service

RAMS is delighted to announce the awardees of the second annual Staff Awards for Outstanding Service!

To be considered for this recognition, anyone working at RAMS may be nominated by anyone within the agency. A diverse committee representing staff and management personnel reviewed all nomination submissions.

The awardees were announced during the July 2014 all-staff meeting, at which they were presented with a certificate. Awardees were also given a cash prize.

Consumer/Community Advocate Award: This award honors an individual who has been an outstanding voice for consumer empowerment by promoting client centered decision-making & change, access to information & resources, and creating relationships that foster hope, safety, and a sense of self-efficacy. S/he is mindful not only of consumer needs, but also of the needs of the larger community. S/he goes above and beyond the “call of duty”, outside her/his regular responsibilities to advocate on the behalf of the organization, consumers, their communities, and the “cause” at large.

Awardee: Claudia Molina, BA
Ms. Claudia Molina is a bicultural & bilingual Spanish-speaking Empowerment Services Coordinator of the Peer Counseling Services Program. Over the years based at Mission Mental Health Clinic (SFDPH), she has been a dynamic and strong advocate for the consumers. She has always gone above & beyond to support and link consumers to housing, legal, and other community supports based on their needs. She is extremely resourceful and always shares her wealth of knowledge & information to benefit others.

Excellence in Service & Cultural Competency Award: This award honors a skilled & compassionate individual who exemplifies the values and ideals of RAMS’ mission in her/his work & interaction with staff, consumers, and the community. S/he has given superior, sustained commitment to quality services, along with unwavering dedication to serve the organization (including other staff, consumers & their communities) with professionalism, integrity, respect, and humility. This individual is not only skilled at what s/he does, but also values diversity, is able to conduct self-assessments, manage & embrace the dynamics of difference, acquire new cultural knowledge, and adapt to the cultural context of the people s/he serves. S/he has a lasting positive impact on the organization and the communities.

Awardee: Kathleen Gonzales, RN 
Ms. Kathleen Gonzales is a bicultural & bilingual Tagalog-speaking Nurse Manager at Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility. She exhibits diligence; she actively and empathically listens to others; she gives time to and seeks out input & ideas from the nursing and counseling teams as well as treats all the residents/clients with deep respect and empathy. She brings knowledge of her background to her work with the Asian Pacific American residents/clients as well as the issues that concern & affect the staff/supervisees. Furthermore, in her position she frequently communicates with counselors - seeking out all culturally relevant treatment information and ensures the nursing team is aware of and understands them. There have been many instances of resident/client issues that involved cultural dynamics and she consistently offered her insights & suggestions during case conferences/team meetings as well as sought feedback with humility. She has made a positive impact at RAMS and in the lives of the residents/clients.

Rising Star/Leadership Award: The award honors an individual that has shown exceptional promise in leadership by demonstrating their skills within the organization and our communities. S/he has shown accomplishments in improving the operations of a program, the administrative/supportive functions, and/or the lives of consumers and community we serve using an effective and efficient approach. This individual leads the way with fresh energy, strong ability, and steadfast commitment.

Awardee: Richard Zevin, LCSW
Mr. Richard Zevin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking Program Manager of San Francisco Achievement Collaborative Team (SF-ACT) of the Wellness Centers Program, where he oversees the clinical component of an innovative juvenile drug court treatment program, located at Civic Center Secondary School. He also provides clinical supervision for RAMS social work staff and interns in a variety of programs throughout the agency. He has demonstrated exceptional commitment to RAMS as shown through his service in four different positions at four programs since he was first hired (i.e., as Treatment Coordinator at Bridge To Wellness, Behavioral Health Counselor at Wellness Centers Program, Senior Behavioral Health Counselor at PAES Counseling & Pre-Vocational Services, and currently as SF-ACT Program Manager). As the Program Manager he bridges the communication between high school administration, the juvenile justice system, and the Department of Public Health. He has a unique ability to communicate with people from different walks of life; through his passion & ability to connect with at-risk youth; his professionalism; his warmth; and his exceptional clinical skills. He truly is a contributor to RAMS and our community’s continued success.

Congratulations to the awardees! RAMS is pleased to be able to have this annual recognition for its staff.

Click HERE to view awardees from the previous year.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reflections on a Milestone: 100 Peer Specialist Graduates, and Counting!

Today's guest post is from Shana Averbach, LMFT, Coordinator of the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate program being offered by RAMS and San Francisco State University Dept. of Counseling. Started in Fall 2010, the Certificate Program's goal is "to prepare consumers and/or family members with the basic skills & knowledge for entry-level employment in the behavioral health system of care and with academic/career planning that supports success in institutions of higher learning". 

It is with great enthusiasm that we announce a major milestone for the Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program: With the recent graduation of 13 students from the program’s eighth cohort, our total number of graduates from the course has passed 100! This is no small feat for the program that was constructed from the ground up in 2010 and has continued to grow and flourish over the following four years.

The most recent cohort graduated June 19th at the San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, the same location where it spent the prior 12 weeks learning about the basic tenets of community behavioral health treatment. Equipped with new knowledge to add to their already valuable lived experience with mental health and/or substance use treatment and recovery, many are already exploring job and volunteer opportunities in the peer professional community.

Joining in the celebration were students’ direct supporters – friends, family members, social workers, neighbors, and bosses (to name a few!). Also in attendance were many of the course’s guest lecturers, and representatives from agencies who continually invite students to shadow their work as part of the course’s 8-hour required field observation assignment. And of course, a number of the 100+ alumni from previous cohorts were present – proudly sporting ribbons of gold and purple to indicate their status as members of this pioneering course. Everyone was invited to write one personal “wellness ingredient,” and these flavors of wellness adorned the room for all to share.

* * * * *

Dr. Rob Williams, Chair of SF State Dept. of Counseling
As is often the case with milestones, having 100+ graduates evokes a time of reflection on what makes this program successful. There are certainly outcomes that the program can point to – such as knowing that the majority of its graduates actively engage in work, volunteer, and educational opportunities as a direct result of taking the course – that are good indicators that the program is successfully meeting its objectives. But it’s the overall integrity of the program that stands out as a success; In other words, on any given day, the program is truly abiding by the principles on which it was founded.

Funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), The Peer Specialist Mental Health Certificate Program is proudly rooted in its guiding principles, which include the following:

Community Collaboration: Every aspect of the course – from outreach to curriculum development and delivery to quality control - is immersed in collaboration between community behavioral health agencies and peer input. The spirit of togetherness is felt in ongoing networking events, professional development, and celebrations such as the graduation described above. The success of the program hinges on the success of the collaboration.

Cultural Competence: Course curriculum includes a cultural competency focus from day one, and program participants – and later direct peer service providers - represent cultures and languages as diverse as the city we serve. Cultural competence isn’t a side note; it’s center stage.

Focus on Wellness: In this course as in the field of peer professionals, the Wellness and Recovery Model leads the way. Whether addressing stigma and inviting hope by sharing lived experience or rejoining and rebuilding life in the community by engaging in the course and/or the workforce, participants in this program live and breathe the empowering message “I did it and so can you.” This message grows exponentially each and every time it’s delivered, and it is delivered often.

* * * * *
So, in saluting our most recent graduates and our vibrant community of alumni, we acknowledge each and every person who has helped along the way. Here’s to the next 100!

Are you or someone you know interested in being trained as a peer professional? 
Applications for the Fall 2014 term will be released soon in July! 
Go to to stay in the loop!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Summer Learning... Had Me A Blast! (Tell me more, tell me more...)

Summer has officially begun as RAMS kicks off its version of a psychology summer camp!

The RAMS Summer Bridge 2014 program started this week. RAMS is collaborating with the Samoan Community Development Center, California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), and The Wellness Initiative. CIIS hosts the program on their Mission St campus.

L-R: Ernest Brown, Ph.D., Summer Bridge Counselor
Danni Biondini, M.A., Summer Bridge Coordinator
Heather Truschel, M.A., Summer Bridge Counselor
Summer Bridge is an 8-week summer mentorship program for students who are interested in the field of psychology. Along with the educational aspects of the program, they are given the chance to explore many career possibilities in the helping professions. Participants of the program will experience first-hand how psychology applies to human services.

This is the fifth year of the Mental Health Services Act-funded program, which recruits youth ages 16 to 20 currently enrolled in or recently graduated from SFUSD high schools, especially from underrepresented backgrounds in mental healthcare, who want to learn about working in the helping professions. For eight weeks, the youth meet three days a week to explore what therapists/counselors do, the different paths to higher education, and the different roles in community mental health. The participants will meet professionals working in the field, including therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, professors, and researchers. Each week the participants go on a field trip to further explore the themes of Identity, Helping Professions, Mental Health, Education, and Self-Care.

The youth began the week with a visit to the Fort Miley Ropes Course, where they climbed up trees, walked across logs and wires thirty feet in the air, and jumped back down (with a safety harness!) or rode a zip line back to the ground. The group bonded as they encouraged each other to face their fears, and learned what it means to trust and support one another. They will continue exploring how this relates to the work of psychology as the program continues.

Upcoming field trips include: Exploratorium’s The Changing Face of Normal: What is Mental Health exhibition, RAMS Child, Youth & Family Outpatient Clinic, San Francisco State University’s Counseling Department, RAMS Fu Yau Project, SFGH Psychiatric Emergency Services, and RAMS Broderick Street Adult Residential Facility. The program culminates in each participant presenting a final project showcasing their journey and self-discovery over the eight weeks. A graduation ceremony for participants and their families will be held at CIIS at the end of July.

Summer Bridge staff with Peer Mentors
L-R: Kaiqi Guo, Hannah Ramirez, Mike Misa

After the program, the participants are invited to join the Youth Council, the advisory group for RAMS. They may also return to work as Peer Mentors for next year’s Summer Bridge program. The long-term goal is to recruit these youth for the workforce (e.g. healthcare, community mental health, etc.). Eventually, we hope to see these youth return to RAMS as staff!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Join us at NAMIWalks!

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization working at the national, state, & local levels to raise awareness and provide essential and free education, advocacy and support group programs. Every year, the local NAMI affiliates in the Bay Area work together to create the AnnualNAMIWalk SF Bay Area to raise awareness for mental illness and raise funds to underwrite and support much-needed free local programs.

To view flyer, right-click and select any option to "Open":

RAMS is pleased to participate in the Annual NAMIWalk SF Bay Area on Saturday, May 31, 2014 to show support and raise awareness about mental health issues.  Check out the 2014 NAMIWalk SF Bay Area page for more details about this event!

Please see for more information about this great cause.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mental Health Awareness in May

In honor of Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day and May being Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, on May 10, RAMS is proudly partnering with Self-Help for the Elderly to hold two mental health awareness events focusing on outreach efforts to older adults.  Held at Self-Help for the Elderly sites, RAMS will facilitate interactive and engaging activities focusing on ways to maintain balanced mental and physical health. 

May is established nationally as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and Older Americans Month.  Established by the State of California, the City & County of San Francisco, and the City of Austin (TX), Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day on May 10 recognizes the importance of raising awareness about mental health and promoting mental wellness in the Asian Pacific American community.  The establishment of Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day was an effort spearheaded by RAMS and overwhelmingly supported by many major associations and community coalitions.  Since May is already established nationally as the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and as Mental Health Awareness Month, institution of this day in the month of May more closely aligns both awareness efforts. 

There are been increasing recent studies and reports on the ongoing struggle of older adults and mental health issues.  The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide reports that amongst elderly women of all ethnic or racial groups, Asians have the highest suicide rate.  However, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the lowest rates of utilization of mental health services among ethnic populations.  This may be due to the substantial stigma that exists, the great need to increase the workforce of culturally competent providers, lack of culturally responsive outreach/services, and the cultural & linguistic isolation of the community, family, and individual.  Many people believe that mental disorders are rare and “happen to someone else" however one in four adults are impacted by mental illness in the United States every year.  Many factors contribute to mental health concerns such as biological, life experiences (e.g. trauma), and family history of mental health conditions.  It is important that each person is aware of some of the warning signs and ways to support and help.

Additionally, during the month of May, RAMS is pleased to be engaged in a series of mental health outreach activities: 
  • RAMS is participating in & presenting at an Asian American Pacific Islander Behavioral Health Forum which is being held at the White House, sponsored by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders   
  • Contributing an article about mental health awareness to the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, Voices Spring 2014 Newsletter
  • Led by journalist Ms. Katherine Kam, RAMS is contributing towards a WebMD article on mental health issues and Asian American families & youth
  • RAMS is sponsoring the Mental Health First Aid courses in Tagalog and English, which is being offered by its community collaborator, San Francisco Filipino Mental Health Initiative
  • RAMS is participating in the 2014 NAMIWalk Bay Area to raise awareness about mental health, support those affected by a mental health condition, and reduce mental illness stigma
To view the  press releases below, right-click and select any option to "Open".