Posts Tagged ‘mental health’
One of the SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issues my colleague Amy and I work on at ProQuest is Homelessness. Learning about the different challenges the homeless face on a daily basis, we wanted to know more about what is being done to help them. After some initial research, we came across the San Francisco Public Library and Leah Esguerra who was hired there as the nation’s first library social worker helping homeless patrons. Here’s what we learned from our conversation with Leah Esguerra and an infographic highlighting the different services offered for homeless patrons at some libraries.
Typical Work Day
Leah Esguerra has been a social worker at San Francisco Public Library for almost eight years (she contracts out from the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team) and described to us how her work has evolved and changed over time. Today, she has a team of eight people, 7 are outreach workers known as Health and Safety Associates (HASAs). The HASAs are employees who have dealt with homelessness at some point in their lives. The goal is for the HASAs to link homeless patrons with outreach and resources they can use on their own. She supervises the outreach workers, who work in four shifts.
They have a visible place in the library, known as The Spot where patrons can check in and up with the HASAs. In addition to working with the outreach workers, Esguerra does walkthroughs and acts as a consultant for staff in dealing with situations that arise with patrons. She answers questions about social services, behavioral issues, and mental health. Some days, she sees as many as 15-30 people.
The library also works to establish community partnerships with Veteran’s Affairs, Lava Mae (a service providing mobile showers for the homeless) and others.
The Role of Health and Safety Associates (HASAs)
The HASAs do outreach in the bathrooms to find people who are inappropriately using the bathrooms (for example, sleeping in the stalls or bathing) and use their own experience as formerly homeless to help and to tell them about places they can go to for help. The HASAs provide inspiration and patrons are drawn to them because of relatable experiences.
Some of the original HASAs have moved on, continuing to grow in their line of work. One is in civil service and another is now a senior case manager.
Challenges include the housing crisis in the Bay area. Esguerra’s original position 8 years ago was tied to finding housing. She would link homeless patrons with single room occupancies. Now, finding housing is a tougher issue. Finding housing is possible, but it often takes more than a year. They went from 400 to 30+ available rooms. She also said she has little access to these rooms and the rooms are not solely for library use. Another challenge presented itself with displacement among the elderly.
Rewards of the Job
People will come back to Esguerra after many years and thank her for her help. They tell her they are working and still have a house or that she’s helped them deal with mental health issues. She gets calls during the holidays from people she’s helped as well.
Esguerra said the HASAs are seen a safety net too. Staff will first call the HASAs if homeless patrons are causing a disturbance instead of calling security.
Best Practices for Homeless Outreach Programs
It is essential for libraries to have social services and/or social workers. Libraries without the means available to hire a social worker can partner with universities or create other partnerships with community organizations. Social service programs in libraries are great for both staff and patrons. Esguerra told us how the homeless have said the library is their sanctuary. She and her team at the library consider themselves ambassadors. They make the homeless feel included in the community. Having HASAs work at the library brings a different face of homelessness to the staff. The HASAs work very hard and are really good at what they do. They humanize the homeless and raise the level of compassion and understanding.
“Libraries are the community living room.” — Leah Esguerra
Esguerra says other libraries who are interested in starting a social services program should definitely give it a try. She said there are many ways to accomplish it.
Today, the movement is international. The San Francisco Public Library has inspired libraries and institutions elsewhere around the world – including Korea, Japan, and Australia – to implement their own social service programs.
President Obama first declared May as Mental Health Awareness Month in 2013 which opened conversations about mental illness and strengthened the movement to improve resources. Mental illnesses can be debilitating if left untreated, but some of the most creative and artistic people have been diagnosed with one. Actors, musicians, writers, educators; no one is immune to a mental illness. In the same way, a physical illness puts a strain on the body and needs time to heal, mental illnesses alter brain function and need time to be properly treated and monitored.
Stigma often overshadows accomplishment when talking about mental illnesses, but many people are able to lead fulfilling lives, engage with those around them and achieve great feats. Treatment is important and Mental Health Awareness Month is a chance to make a difference in the community. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organization offers local support and opportunities to get involved in the United States. Other organizations like Mentalhealth.gov and Mental Health America are full of information too. Getting involved in mental health awareness and fighting against social stigmas can be as easy as starting a conversation.
If you would like to start a conversation or a debate regarding mental health awareness in the classroom, ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher has Leading Issues on Mental Health and Mental Depression to begin learning. Learning about mental health and mental illnesses in the classroom provides a safe place for students to discuss concerns, opinions and ask questions. The more comfortable we become with understanding these issues, the more empowered we are to help make changes in the future.
How are you engaging in mental health awareness? Comment below or let us know at #ProQuest
World Autism Awareness Day, which is April 2, seeks to raise awareness and foster a better understanding of the challenges faced by those with autism. The day is also meant to celebrate the unique strengths and contributions of autistic individuals.
Autism spectrum disorder is an incurable, lifelong neurological condition characterized by obsessive interests, repetitive behaviors, and decreased communication and social interaction skills. The origins of autism are still unknown; however, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that environmental, biological, and genetic factors may be contributing causes.
According to the CDC, 1 in 68 American children has autism. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed: they account for 1 in 42 autism cases, while girls account for 1 in 189. Autism rates have surged in recent years, but many experts believe that higher rates can be at least partially attributed to higher awareness and better detection.
Autism exists on a spectrum; there are great variations in the degree to which autistic individuals exhibit signs and symptoms. Those with high-functioning autism, commonly (although no longer officially) referred to as Asperger’s Syndrome, have decreased communication and social interaction skills, but signs and symptoms oftentimes go unnoticed by others. Many of those with high-functioning autism live undiagnosed, which has led to a lost generation who grew up before autism screening became common. Those on the lower-functioning end of the spectrum have more obvious signs and symptoms such as being nonverbal and need far more assistance.
Despite challenges in some areas, autistic individuals excel in many other areas. Some of the unique strengths of autistic individuals include original thinking, intense focus, attention to detail, and logical reasoning. When these unique strengths are nurtured, autistic individuals have the potential to flourish within—and contribute to—society.
Bring autism awareness to the classroom with SIRS Issues Researcher. Our autism Leading Issue page includes a topic overview, analysis, viewpoints, critical thinking questions, and relevant search results.