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Meet Cheo

16 years of homelessness and struggle with mental illness brought Cheo to BRIDGES Full-Service Partnership (FSP) program in June of 2019.  Cheo is diagnosed with Schizophrenia which means that he experiences psychotic symptoms that include auditory hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized thought processing as well as symptoms of depression. These symptoms have severely impacted Cheo’s life in a variety of ways including the ability to keep a home in the community and connect with others.  Schizophrenia often affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly and is sadly socially stigmatized. Cheo has to work through his personal struggle with his symptoms, daily and does so.   

Left untreated symptoms of schizophrenia can be persistent and disabling.  Cheo found help in FSP.  This program is designed to provide field-based services to make mental health easily accessible to individuals like Cheo who have intensive service needs to successfully live in the community.  Services include intensive and field-based case management, therapy, psychoeducation, peer support, psychiatric and medication, benefits and housing assistance, substance abuse support, and other adjunctive services and interventions that reduce hospitalization and institutionalization.

Cheo’s symptoms severely impacted his life in a variety of ways including the ability to keep a home in the community and connect with others.  Since working with BRIDGES over the last two and a half years, Cheo has made great improvements. Cheo has worked closely with a team of therapists, case managers, psychiatrist, and peer advocates to decrease his symptoms of psychosis, decrease feelings of depression, remain on a prescribed medication regimen, increase his independent living skills (i.e., schedule and manage medical appointments, cooking and hygiene skills), and find permanent and stable housing.

Cheo has a multidisciplinary team that is available to him as he needs.  He often meets with team members once or twice weekly. Cheo avails himself of these services and participates in his own treatment. He receives psychoeducation regarding his mental illness, CBT interventions, grounding and mindfulness activities, explores and processes feelings of depression, life challenges and experiences, and has learned to utilize coping skills. Cheo engages in talk therapy, physical activities such as walking, and journaling and writing poetry to decrease his symptoms. He always comes to sessions with a positive attitude and expresses gratitude to his team.

When asked about how he feels about therapy, Cheo states, “Therapy has been a blessing to receive. I feel everyone should get therapy. It helps with mental health.”  He reports that the therapy program has allowed him to express repressed thoughts and “helped overcome hurdles that I couldn’t have done without therapy.” He praises BRIDGES program because therapy has impacted him in a “positive way” stating that his “therapists have been the greatest! They taught me that there are good people in the world that are still willing to help.” When asked about advice he would give to future clients, Cheo encourages people to “Work with the staff, therapist, psychiatrist, and case managers because they genuinely care. Be honest with them and they will take care of you. BRIDGES staff are the greatest, do what they say!”

After over 16 years of chronic homelessness and housing struggles we are excited that Cheo has been matched to permanent housing via the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) voucher! It is a long process to getting matched to permanent and/or supportive housing and the team will be working with Cheo every step of the way until he has a secure roof over his head and a place to call home!

Bridges FSP is so proud of Cheo, his participation in the program, and his accomplishments in meeting mental health goals!  

 

 

Meet Mary

 

Mary came to BRIDGES with severe anxiety and was experiencing panic attacks.  Mary, like many others who come to BRIDGES or experience mental health challenges, have past childhood and/or other traumas that can change the brain’s development and affect how the body responds to stress.  Further, trauma is linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and can negatively impact the ability to develop healthy relationships.

Mary recalls that when she first started with BRIDGES, “I could not leave home without my anxiety pills or else I would literally have a panic attack”.  BRIDGES provided a safe, supportive, and caring environment for Mary.  Mary further explained, “I have addressed some past traumas with the help of Dora (therapist) and I utilize tools learned from therapy to manage stress and anxiety”.  Mary said, “Thank you for kindness, your professionalism and your patience for dealing with clients like myself who are not always so kind when they’re struggling with mental illness”.  Mary describes that she “felt so much support and genuine concern from the entire staff”, and “will always remember how they went above and beyond” including the support she felt when she was ill with symptoms of an autoimmune disease.

Today, Mary is happy that she has been off all medications for over a year. Also, today Mary eats a healthier diet, and with the help of Dora has been able to “utilize tools learned from therapy to manage stress and anxiety”.  

Mary has been able to return to work and maintain fulfilling work.  “I went back to work over a year ago at Tri City Mental Health Authority as a Clinical Wellness Advocate III”.  Further, Mary shared her excitement with BRIDGES as she was “recently hired by CAMHPRO (California Association of Mental Health Peer-Run Organizations) under the under the Peer Empowerment Partnership, as a local trainer for LA County and Southern Region”.

Mary wrote “Thank you so much for helping me to get my life back!!!  Now I work showing others, they too can get their life back … recovery is beautiful  ❤️   Mary, CWA III”

BRIDGES is super proud of Mary’s accomplishments and all the hard work she did to improve her life and reach her goals. 

Meet Oscar

Oscar was 17 years old, feeling hopeless and like an outcast, when he sought out mental health treatment through his high school in 2016. He was struggling to keep up in school, failing most of his classes, and in danger of not graduating. As a way to cope with his depression, he turned to alcohol and drugs. Oscar had experienced trauma from a young age; in Elementary School, he was often the target of vicious bullying, and in Middle School, and he began to self-harm. At age 13, he had a plan to end his life. Shortly after, Oscar was hospitalized. Although he found his hospital stay to be helpful, he continued to struggle with depression.

When Oscar began treatment with BRIDGES TruStart in September of 2016, he was eager to learn new coping skills and  begin his journey to healing.  A therapist met with Oscar on campus weekly, and during summer breaks he would ride his bike to the office. Oscar was motivated and serious about his mental health.  He graduated  from High School in 2017, and in 2019 he earned his Associates of Applied Science Degree in Digital Media. With all the progress he had made, it was time for his journey at BRIDGES TruStart to come to an end; Oscar had a bright future ahead of him.

In December of 2020, the pandemic had triggered his depression and Oscar found himself feeling unmotivated, sad, hopeless, and struggling financially. He turned to alcohol once again to self-soothe, but was able to recognize he was only harming himself and reached out to his BRIDGES therapist and requested to be seen again. The therapist began to meet with Oscar virtually and worked on alleviating his symptoms and negative, self-defeating thoughts.

Almost a year into treatment, Oscar is thriving! He is working as a freelance video editor for an up-and-coming artist and as a caregiver, working with children, adolescents, and adults with special needs. Oscar is in a healthy relationship and is enjoying his new role as an uncle. Per Oscar, “I feel alive, happy, and appreciative of life.” Through therapy, Oscar has learned to value and love himself and most importantly, he has learned that asking for help, no matter how many times, is okay.   

We are so very proud of Oscar’s hard work and all his personal achievements.