FACES is thrilled that Pat Myers was chosen as a change maker by the Richmond Times Dispatch.  See the article below.

PAT MYERS CREATED FACES TO HELP FAMILIES DEALING WITH A LOVED ONE’S MENTAL ILLNESS

By Katie O’Connor  

Richmond Times Dispatch

20171223_MET_DIFF_AWE01It’s been 13 years, but it’s still difficult for Pat Myers to talk about as she sits in the house that the organization she helped start uses for support group meetings.

A double picture frame sits beside her. On one side, her son Justin smiles serenely. He had shaved his head the summer before that photo — his senior portrait — was taken, but let it grow out at his mother’s request, so in the image he has a full head of deep brown hair.

The other side of the frame holds a poem titled “Christmas in Heaven.”

About 13 years ago, Myers had participated in a family workshop program for the loved ones of those with mental illnesses, and when it drew near the end, she said she had bonded so much with the other participants that she suggested continuing to meet as a support group.

“So I approached my church and the pastor who was there at the time was 100 percent supportive,” she said. “And we kind of had started to lay the groundwork for a meeting, time, place, everything, and then my son took his life. So that was a catalyst for everything to just kind of start and fall into place.”

FACES — Family Advocacy Creating Education and Services — grew out of that tragedy. Justin had been battling bipolar disorder, and he was 20 when he killed himself.

Since the Chesterfield County-based group began in 2004, it has become a haven for families dealing with the same challenges Myers went through, an advocate for awareness of mental health and an education resource for the community.

“We are involved in a number of initiatives to support the families of those affected by serious brain disorders,” said Candy Watt, who serves as co-chairwoman of FACES along with Myers. “We use the term ‘brain disorder’ because we want people to recognize that these are diseases, these are not mental choices made by the person who has schizophrenia, or one of these other diseases, to just be difficult.”

The families of those with a serious mental illness often struggle to find appropriate resources, to be understood by their community and to keep a grasp on their daily lives. Myers knows those struggles all too well.

“Family members need resources,” she said. “I felt from the very beginning of the time when my son was ill that I didn’t know where to turn. And even people that I went to — the pastor of my church was wonderful, but he said to me, ‘Pat, I don’t know how to help you.’ It was such a kind of unknown territory at the time.”

FACES was created to fill that gap. It hosts twice-monthly support groups at a house provided by the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Midlothian, along with monthly community education meetings, and it continues to advocate for the families it serves.

Participation in the support group fluctuates, and about six to 12 people typically come to meetings, which are open to the public. But FACES has ensured it has a broader reach by working with other organizations in Chesterfield.

Its members helped to initiate and are part of the Chesterfield Suicide Awareness and Prevention Coalition, which was started in 2015.

FACES also advocated heavily for the launch of Chesterfield Community Services Board’s Crisis Intervention Training, which teaches first responders how to appropriately handle individuals with mental health issues or other intellectual disorders.

That was a vital development for FACES, because too often family members feel their only option is to call 911 when a loved one with a mental health issue has gotten out of hand.

“(Myers) and her group were instrumental in getting (Crisis Intervention Training) off the ground,” said John Tyler, crisis services manager with Chesterfield Community Services Board.

Myers knows firsthand the importance of first responders understanding mental illness. She described a traumatic experience when she had called 911 for Justin and police officers used tear gas on him and pulled him onto her front porch.

“It was horrible,” she said. “It was a nightmare. People just don’t realize just how bad things were and how much better they are now. And that’s what’s gratifying, that it is better.”

She knows it’s better because she has advocated for the changes that make it better, and she still sees and can empathize with the families who are living with it through the support groups.

“It just gives families a place to be able to talk confidentially about what’s going on and to have somebody say, ‘I get it,’” Myers said.

Myers remembers what it’s like for these families. She does her work to help them, but, most of all, she does it for Justin.

“He’s the reason I do this,” she said. “I don’t want his legacy to be, ‘Oh, he took his life.’ His legacy is that we’re helping other people because of him.”

koconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6813

Twitter: @__KatieOConnor

 

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FACES GET A COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP AWARD

On March 16th, Candy Watt and Patricia Myers, two of FACES co-founders, accepted an award on behalf of FACES.  Chesterfield Community Services Board honored FACES with a Community Partnership award at a lovely banquet held at Meadowbrook Country Club.   Several other organizations were honored for their collaborative work.

FACES is proud to serve the Chesterfield community and treasures our partnerships with Chesterfield Mental Health as well as other wonderful organizations such as Chesterfield Police, NAMI, American Foundations For Suicide Prevention,  Celebrate Recovery and others, that also strive to bring understanding to the issues of mental illness and brain disorders.

We are pleased to be recognized and remain dedicated to making Chesterfield County a place of mental wellness, understanding and acceptance for all.

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People are talking about FACES and here is what they are saying. 

 

As Program Manager at Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services, I want to express my utmost support and appreciation for the outstanding advocacy and services provided by FACES for families seeking resources and hope and wellness for loved ones affected by disorders of the brain such as depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorders.  Since FACES first began in 2005, the group has been valued partner and a significant community organization.  FACES is truly a group that saves lives and saves families.  FACES is a group that advocates for mental health systems and services to work better and work smarter for seriously vulnerable citizens and their families here in Chesterfield and throughout Central Virginia.

 

It has been my honor to participate in panels during suicide prevention seminars organized by FACES.  I have witnessed the support and knowledge and hope gained by family members during support gatherings and community education meetings led by dedicated advocates in the FACES House.  These gatherings and meetings occur several times each month as part of the FACES service to this community.  During the early years of FACES, members reached out to case management teams at Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services to provide holiday gifts and cards to persons suffering from serious disorders and who had little or no family support.  These became powerful gifts of understanding and recognition to persons who too often struggle against the stigma and invisibility associated with serious brain disorders. 

 

The passion of our partners in FACES is nothing short of amazing and never fails to inspire.  These partners at FACES are crucial supporters of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program in Chesterfield County.  With help in planning and implementation from FACES, the Chesterfield CIT program became a reality in 2013.  The CIT program provides police and other public safety personnel with 40 hours of intensive training designed to improve emergency responses to individuals and families experiencing a mental health crisis.  Beyond being an important advocate for the creation of the CIT program in Chesterfield, FACES continues to demonstrate support through their role as an advisor to program facilitators and through presentations to each new group of CIT students.

 

Another successful Chesterfield program – the Crisis Triage Center (CTC) at Chippenham Hospital – also became a reality in 2013 with support and involvement from FACES as active members of the CTC Oversight Group.  The CTC is a joint venture between Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services and Richmond Behavioral Health Authority located in the Tucker Intake area of Chippenham Hospital.  Police in Chesterfield and Richmond can coordinate through their respective mental health crisis teams to bring persons in crisis to the CTC assessment site.  CIT-trained law-enforcement officers and mental health clinicians are onsite at the CTC (9am to midnight – 7 days a week) to team with Chippenham medical staff to provide integrated assessments with recommendations for treatment.

 

A significant goal of the CIT program and the CTC is to provide education and resources for law-enforcement officers when dealing with persons suffering from symptoms of serious disorders.  Such programs strive to decrease the likelihood that someone with acute symptoms will be taken to jail.  The goal is to help persons in need find ways to access treatment whenever possible rather than send them into the criminal justice system.  FACES continues to advocate for enhanced access to improved mental health services.  Demonstrating unflagging dedication to their mission, FACES remains an energetic partner with families and organizations in this community and a positive voice for change and continued learning.  We are a better community because of the remarkable work and mission of FACES.

 

 

Sincerely,

 John Tyler, L.C.S.W.

Adult MH, Emergency Services and Access Manager

Chesterfield Mental Health Support Services

P.O. Box 92

Chesterfield, VA 23832

 

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Four years ago I found myself trying to care for a loved one with a serious brain disorder.  They had no diagnosis, I had no real understanding of their condition, and neither of us had real help or assistance.  We had to endure some very difficult times.  I was told about FACES and every aspect of the situation has changed for the better.

FACES gave me the important support that is vital to coping with such a serious situation.  They understand you and your loved one’s needs from personal experience.  The empathy and knowledge sharing provided to you during their meetings are critical in surviving and even thriving through a loved one’s illness.  I learned how to understand what my loved one is going through, how best to communicate with them, and how I can provide them the support and care that they need.  I learned directly from shared experiences in the group meetings as well as from the educational guest speakers where to find information that I was able apply to my loved one’s specific situation.  And most importantly, they are there for your when it is you that needs support.

The leaders of this group are wonderful and sensitive people.  They are highly effective listeners and educators.  They understand because they’ve similarly had to handle what you have and worked diligently to build a warm, caring group that is experienced, knowledgeable, and supportive.  I can’t speak highly enough of them.  Neither I nor my loved one would be where we are today without their efforts.  There is hope, there is help and they never give up.

-          Mark Warriner

 

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FACES is an invaluable organization, providing personal support, education and advocacy to family members who have a loved one living with a mental illness.    This organization has served as a life line to countless families in our community.  FACES provides support groups and presentations on a wide variety of topics that give family members knowledge and understanding about mental illness and brain disorders.  In addition, FACES has promoted suicide awareness through education campaigns and community events.  The work of this organization has benefitted countless families and has helped to reduce the stigma often associated with mental illness.  Finally, FACES has done a tremendous job promoting specialized training for law enforcement and first responders.  The training enhances the officer’s awareness and understanding of mental illness and also focuses on ways to effectively deal with people who are in crisis due to their mental illness.
Let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Larry Barnett

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