Finding a Place to Start: Calvary Honors Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that nearly a third of individuals experiencing homelessness in Washington, DC self-reported having a history of mental illness? Lack of access to mental health resources may also contribute to an individual experiencing chronic homelessness. These indicators highlight the connection between mental health and homelessness experienced by many women in Calvary Women’s Services’ programs. While our nation observes Mental Health Awareness Month every May, we’re dedicated to breaking stigmas around mental health all year long.

Women at Calvary are able to improve their mental well-being through free, on-site behavioral health and wellness services. Trained mental health professionals on our staff empower women to navigate their mental health conditions – such as substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety –  through individual and group therapy and substance use recovery sessions.

These licensed professionals also work with clients and their Case Managers to coordinate weekly in-person sessions at our program sites and virtual sessions, ensuring they can meet a diverse range of needs. Additionally, the therapists collaborate with other staff members at Calvary by leading staff trainings on crucial topics like trauma-informed care.

However, we cannot ignore the consequences negative perceptions surrounding mental health have in our culture and on the women working to end their homelessness for good at Calvary’s programs.

“Residents have often not wanted to be diagnosed or even take medication,” Schwanna Cockerham-Qualls, trained psychotherapist at Calvary, noted the effect the stigma on mental health had on women accessing health services. “I would encourage them to seek help especially when they notice something is wrong. Having a mental health issue is not shameful, it’s brave to acknowledge it and do something about it.”

By providing direct access to mental health services through trained professionals at Calvary’s programs, we’re making progress in dismantling the perception of shame perpetuated around seeking mental health services. Women at our programs feel safe when getting support with their mental health goals thanks to our community of trust and respect. In an average year, some 2 in 5 women at Calvary engage in on-site mental health services. This adds up to over 530 therapy sessions with licensed professionals at Calvary each year.

This May, we’re committed to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and its impact on the women in our programs. To learn more about how Calvary empowers women to break the stigma surrounding mental health, we recommend exploring these resources:

Calvary Women’s Services stands unwaveringly against homelessness, striving to create a safe, stable environment where women can transform their lives. You can donate to support our mission here: calvaryservices.org/donations

 

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