Mental Health PEER Connection

In May 2015, “Rosalee”, a forty-one-year-old Hispanic female with a diagnosis of depression, and a history of anxiety and addiction, was referred to Mental Health PEER Connection by Erie County Department of Social Services, to pursue employment and become independent of the system. While admitting to staff that she has had an on-going issue with using heroin, Rosalee had been clean for over a year.  However, the emotional aspects of her life were becoming overwhelming, which had increased her anxiety and depression levels, and led to thoughts about using, again.  She met with staff once or twice per week for Peer Counseling, learning some self-help techniques her peer has used to deal with built-up emotions, such as journaling, exercising, taking a walk, etc. She also began taking anxiety medications, but found she did not like them, as they “weighed her down” and seemed too much like using addictive drugs. Other holistic forms of healing were explored, to help her develop a “wellness toolbox” of techniques to use when her symptoms begin. She also attended basic life and vocational skills classes in our Enhancement Program, five hours per day, Tuesdays through Fridays.

During the next year, Rosalee continued receiving peer counseling and ongoing vocational support, using counseling to deal with her depression and anxiety, and continuing to gain basic life and vocational skills here in the Job Club. Eventually, she shared with staff that she was once again pregnant, which prompted her to consider establishing a career, instead of just finding another short-term job, so she worked with staff to develop a new goal: obtaining full-time employment. She fulfilled that goal within the next six months, and has maintained that employment for two years. Prior to her entering the Enhancement Program, she had never kept a job for more than three months.