For Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW) and in celebration of our staff do, please say hello and thank you to staff of the Transitional Apartment Program (TAP), which provides housing and mental health services to 14 clients in agency-owned apartment buildings. Three Mental Health Professionals and one Rehabilitation Supervisor ensure quality mental health care while helping clients strive toward a more independent setting. Please meet the TAP team:
What is your job at Stepping Stones and what kind of things do you do as part of that job?
CHARLENE: My job at Stepping Stones is a Mental Health Professional. My role is a success partner for clients by way of accountability. The clients understand that I am there to encourage communication, educate on mental health and ask them to engage well-being by coping skills that are taught and addressed. I consider myself as a liaison for better mental health.
NIKKI: I am a Program (Case) Manager for TAP (Transitional Apartment Program) at Stepping Stones. I help my clients by observing them with their weekly medication boxes and medication education. I assist them with their monthly to weekly budgets from educating to problem solving. I assist them with linkage in the community for outside resources such as RHA, LIHEAP, Social Security, DHS, employment/ volunteer work, voting, and bus passes. I also assist them with discussing, problem solving, and managing their symptoms, triggers, and use of coping skills. I'm trained in Trauma and MRT (Moral Reconation Therapy). I lead MRT weekly with clients, as well as many other educational trainings. These are just a few things I assist my clients with day to day.
Nikki notes: I started at Stepping Stones in August of 1997 as a RHA at the Kishwaukee house next to Park it Market, when we worked 48 hour weekend shifts and didn't have to do documentation!
VANESSA: I am a mental health professional. I assist the clients with managing their mental illness symptoms, practicing coping skills, and taking part in independent living activities through things like apartment cleaning, goal setting, shopping, etc.
NANNATTE: My official title is Rehabilitation Supervisor. A big I see the actual job as a combination of counselor, teacher, and parent. Paperwork, admissions, court reports, on calls, clinical reports, counseling, conflict resolution, crisis intervention, and staffing are all aspects of my job. An important part of my job is providing support for the team and (hopefully) leading by example.
What do you like most about your job?
CHARLENE: What I like most about my job is that I am an agent of change. I am modeling positivity in action for clients to emulate.
NIKKI: I love working with my clients and being there to help and support them, I've always been drawn to helping those in need from a little girl assisting my grandma due to her having multiple sclerosis and in a wheel chair, students in high school who were disabled; to my own child born with disabilities from having a brain stroke in utero. I also love working with my peers and getting to know new and different people, as I always learn something new from all of them or how to be better person.
VANESSA: I love interacting with the clients every day. They make me smile and it's been great getting to know them and see their progress, even in the short time I've been here. The clients and staff here always make my day.
NANNATTE: I think it's a tie between researching information and creating written resources and getting to think outside the box to help the client grasp and connect with concepts.
What's something that others might not know about you? What do you like to do in your free time?
CHARLENE: I enjoy the Argentine Tango which is ballroom dancing.
NIKKI: I think pretty much EVERYBODY knows this about me! I love my family and having as much family time as possible is important to me (I have 3 children); this includes ALL my furry babies. I have so many I had to purchase a farm. My farm is called "The Delmore Zoo Crew" with a paw print and a horse head on sign. I have three horses, five dogs, five cats, a turtle, and any other furry friend that comes on the land/farm. All are welcome at the Delmore Zoo. And, one or more of them have been rescued. I LOVE my Italian food the most (pasta…mmmmm) and of course ice cream and chocolate. I love playing with my cats, walking and playing with dogs and riding my horse. When riding, I feel very free and all stress seems to disappear, unless of course you somersault off your horse at my age... lol. I love arts and crafts, sports, traveling and learning history.
VANESSA: I have a degree in molecular biology in addition to psychology. I have a tabby cat named Chester who is my BFF. In my free time I'm usually at a concert (pre-COVID), walking outdoors, or annoying my cat to no end.
NANNATTE: I have an autistic, developmentally delayed, son, a dog (who thinks he's my son), and cat (who thinks she's the princess). I have a lot of useless knowledge… like where the phrase "wears her heart on her sleeve" stems from. I play the piano, violin, and bells but can't read music. I dabble in spray paint art when I get then chance. Always looking to learn and I'm currently taking an online photography class as well as finishing up courses from Brene Brown. I love animals and ultimate life goal is to do animal therapy. I am part of an online community that's goal is to spread positivity and inspiration across the world and finding ways to improve the world if only in small ways. Its connected to a company (Zox) and you have seen me with their products pretty much anytime you've seen me.
What's a favorite stress buster?
NIKKI: My stress busters are walking and playing with dogs and cats, riding my horse, at home spa days ( Dr. Teals and aroma therapy), all my tv series I watch (especially crime related), and reading.
VANESSA: I like to relax by listening to music. Music has always been one of the most influential things in my life.
NANNATTE: Humor!! And when I am done cracking myself up (because my son and furry kids do not appreciate my humor), in summer its attempting to agility train my dog, and in the winter its- shoveling snow!
What things are you doing during the pandemic to take care of mental health?
CHARLENE: Taking the time to learn new things that have interest to me and getting really organized cleared away all clutter in the house.
NIKKI: I do a lot of these same things during pandemic; except I stay home unless have to get needed items. Everybody already knows I clean a lot already.. lol.
VANESSA: Though I try to stay informed, I've also been making sure to take time away from focusing on the news and current events - I walk through nature, play my favorite songs, and spend time with my family to unwind and take a breather.
NANNATTE: I've gotten back into playing music again and stress organized a lot. I also started researching and writing books for my son (on the topics he likes and at more his level). My artistic side has come out more, and have been working to design a couple bracelets for Zox, which have made it past round one.
What's something we can do to bust stigma about mental illness?
CHARLENE: Challenge the thought that one cannot live again once they are diagnosed with mental illness.
NIKKI: We need to reach and educate as many people as we can. I believe everyone should have to learn and be trained in/about mental illness, especially if you work with people in the community. I believe teaching to the young as well while in their early years of school, so we can beat the stigma early.
VANESSA: Just promote awareness and education. Mental illness shouldn't be a taboo topic so start the dialogue. Remind others that mental illness can happen to anybody and everyone deserves compassion and respect.
NANNATTE: I think continuing to have the uncomfortable conversations with friends and family about the misinformation out there. I tend to find I do this through the medias portrayal of mental health, pointing out the negative stigma that was displayed and then providing accurate information and statistics.
Pictured: Nikki Delmore, Nannatte Heshelman, Vanessa Sumano and Charlene Donahoe.