Emotional, behavioral, mental health and substance use disorders are among the least understood and, perhaps, the most misunderstood of all health conditions. People fear what they don’t understand. Our stories humanize us and help debunk media myths and single-focused coverage and portrayals of mental illness.
We want to amplify the voices of those that are struggling and remind them that they are not alone and that others have similar experiences. If you want to share, or someone you love and support wants to tell their story, just call us! We can do many things for you to support your wellbeing but only you can tell YOUR story.
Willene first came to GPS when her son, Jack, had started High School. Jack was using drugs and wasn’t interested in going to school. Willene was in a constant state of stress. She often did for Jack instead of teaching and encouraging him to take responsibility for himself. With no family in the area, no close friends and an abusive ex-husband, GPS became a lifeline for her while her life revolved around her son.
She returned to GPS off and on over the next few years for support for herself and help in encouraging Jack to get treatment for his addictions.
A few years later a new Parent Partner began working with her and her son. More than once they got Jack to agree to treatment but when the time came to start a program Jack backed out. Eventually Jack decided to accept help when he realized his life had fallen apart. He had been using consistently and was stealing to support his drug habits. Both the Parent Partner and a Youth Peer supported Jack and Willene through a substance abuse in-patient treatment program, as well as numerous court proceedings for his criminal charges. They also connected Jack to mental health counseling upon completion of his in-patient treatment program. Jack was fully engaged and got his first job after participating in a job training program through his counseling office. He has cleared his theft charges, continues to work and is optimistic about one day earning his GED.
Through her time with GPS, Willene had her concerns validated, learned about drug and alcohol addiction, was encouraged to stop enabling and was able to build a true family bond.
Our Parent Partners listened to her and worked with her on how to create different boundaries and ways to support her son while incorporating her own unique parenting style. Willene and Jack have a stronger bond and are now able to conquer their challenges together.
For a long time Rita and her infant son suffered domestic violence and abuse from her husband. After divorcing and moving away from her son’s father, both she and her son, Tevin, struggled with severe PTSD from the domestic violence trauma.
Tevin’s behavioral problems started at an early age. From the time he entered school, Rita had worked hard with doctors and school personnel to ensure he was supported in learning both with medication and an IEP. Tevin thrived as a result and at the end third grade his teachers told Rita that, by law, they were no longer required to keep his education plan in place. All assessments indicated that Tevin was at the appropriate age and grade level developmentally and he would no longer receive the supports his IEP had provided. Yet the single mom had recently been made aware that her son and another youth had gotten into a series of escalating altercations with two other boys, one of whom had suffered a minor injury. It was clear to her that her son had experienced bullying, though his aggressive response had been unhelpful.
Rita called Guided Pathways about her concern that her son might not continue to thrive without some consideration being given to his needs for support as he grew toward puberty and beyond. His doctors had advised exercising caution in making any changes. Rita did not feel school personnel was receptive to her concerns nor fully understood her son’s needs for social emotional support and wanted help advocating for Tevin.
Rita’s Parent Partner reviewed all of the medical and psychological information and documentation she made available and helped her plan for a meeting with Tevin’s teachers and principal. Her Parent Partner also helped draft a plan aimed at supporting Tevin’s ongoing social emotional skill development as well as academic supports aimed at his continued educational growth. Her Parent Partner also attended meetings with school personnel to support Rita’s self-advocacy. As a result, school personnel and Rita reached agreement in planning for Tevin’s success in the coming school year. In addition, school personnel and all families involved in the prior incident of bullying came away with an understanding of the students’ needs for social emotional learning and how to work with Tevin and other students to meet these needs.
Travis was fifteen when he was referred to Guided Pathways by his mother Valerie. Valerie, a single parent, was fully focused on maintaining her foothold on her sobriety and recovery from substance use. In addition to parenting a teenage son and a toddler, she was also working hard to build a cleaning business. Valerie worried that her lack of family time with her son after school and on weekends was contributing to the trouble he had begun to have. Travis was skipping school and instead staying home in bed. He was irritable, angry and when he did attend classes would often get into fights with classmates.
When Valerie reached out to Guided Pathways for help we connected her with our Parent Partner James who himself was in recovery from substance abuse and was successfully parenting three daughters on his own. James strongly identified with many of Travis’ struggles not only with mental health challenges but also as a fellow male person of color and agreed to mentor him and assist Valerie.
James quickly engaged Travis and built a rapport over their shared love of music and sports. James visited Travis at school and met with Travis’ school counselor with whom Travis had grown close and trusted. James learned Travis’ likes, dreams and motivations for succeeding in school. He guided Travis in setting goals and teaching him the steps to take to achieve those goals. Coordinating with the school counselor, James developed recognition and incentives for each milestone Travis reached toward meeting his goals and within a matter of weeks his struggle to attend his classes completely resolved. He felt more confident, had better relationships with his peers and finished his sophomore year strong. Travis went on to graduate high school on time and now works for his mom in a business venture that continues to be a success while working on his business degree at a local college.
Being a teen mom was a difficult task for Sara, even with the support and hands-on assistance of her own mother Janet. Sara’s first challenge came in the form of post-partum depression following the birth of her child. Living with the ‘baby blues’ was frightening and isolating for the young mom making her second challenge – continuing her education – more difficult to meet. With her mother’s continued care and guidance, mental health counseling and medication, Sara persevered through junior high and into life as a high school student.
Still, the day-to-day demands of raising a young child proved to be difficult and discouraging for the teenager. Sara didn’t have the luxury of enjoying the fun-focused lifestyles of friends who were free from the responsibilities of parenting a young child. Her schoolwork suffered and, in her senior year, she was behind in several required areas that threatened to prevent her from graduating. The relationship between her and her mother was stressed and strained by resentment and the unmet expectations they each felt and struggled with.
“It was hard for me because I was worried about the safety of the baby but, I still had to go to work to make ends meet,” said Janet who was raising Sara as a single parent. “Without any family help or support from anybody, it was very stressful and heartbreaking.”
“I couldn’t have done it without my mom’s support and patience,” Sara said of her mother’s consistent help, despite the conflict that developed between them.
The growing demands and pressures of parenthood and school seemed unbearable and Sara sought relief and escape. On the night her daughter attended prom, Janet had the suspicion that Sara had smoked marijuana and drank alcohol though a marijuana test didn’t support the suspicion. Fearing that the risk for substance abuse might grow, mom and daughter both decided they had reached a crossroad and needed to decide what path to take next.
When they learned that a young family member had successfully completed education at Bremerton’s Washington Youth Academy (WYA), Janet searched for information on the internet. After reviewing WYA’s mission and program information, Sara and Janet felt hopeful that the school would help Sara get back on track with school and life. The mission of the Washington Youth Academy is to provide a highly disciplined, safe, and professional learning environment that empowers at-risk youth to improve their educational levels and employment potential and become responsible and productive citizens of the State of Washington. All participants accepted for enrollment must have a mentor throughout the school’s program and for a period of time following completion of the program. Enter Guided Pathways and Youth Peer Coordinator, Natalie.
Janet first called GPS to find a mentor to work with Sara for the twenty-two weeks of her enrollment. Janet later sought one-to-one parent peer support for herself. As Youth Peer and mentor to Sara, Natalie served as a sounding board for many of the young mom’s fears, frustrations and difficulties navigating her relationship with Janet. Janet’s GPS Parent Partner worked with her in a similar fashion, as Janet explored and practiced new ways of communicating with her daughter and reducing the tensions between them.
“When I first started working with Sara, she seemed to have this hard wall up, like she wanted to guard her heart, feelings and emotions from the world,” said Natalie. “Sara expressed having a lack of confidence within herself that showed.”
Natalie met with Sara to help bolster her confidence and motivation before entering the WYA program and continued to meet with her during the time that she was in the program and following completion.
“Working with Sara and seeing her growth during this time has been truly amazing to watch!” Natalie said. “Sara is one of the most resilient young ladies that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. She was able to find and unlock her own inner strength, love and confidence that was there all along. I can’t wait to see the rest of her success that is in store!”
“I have big plans for the future. I am currently still enrolled in high school and hoping to join the Navy,” Sara said.
*Identifying information about clients has been changed to respect anonymity.