December 2020/Issue XV
24/7 Emergency Help Line for Those in Crisis:
A Client's Story:
Resilience, Hope,
and Hard Work
By Doni Fontaine
West Central CommonGround
Peer Support Specialist

Photo Credit: Shane Orpf
My story begins with childhood. I'm lesbian. I was aware of it from a very young age. Kindergarten is where I realized I wanted boys to be my friends. I didn't wear dresses like the other girls. I was told many times by family and teachers "Girls don't do that," and "That's not for you, that's for boys." I believe this is where my borderline personality disorder started. I was also incredibly shy and didn't know what anxiety was -- but I knew I didn't like leaving home for the day. I was always nervous. And was sad a lot. Boys would push me away from playing with them. Girls would laugh at me for not knowing how to do cartwheels. School was hard from day one of kindergarten until graduation. 

My early 20s saw me discovering alcohol and marijuana. I would go out drinking every night with a friend of mine. I had an endless string of jobs. I didn't like how some of my bosses talked to me, I would get bored and couldn't force myself to stay with most jobs. I finally came out in my early 20s, as well. That helped me feel better in some ways. 

I was 34 when life hit me a blow I couldn't handle. To say I 'lost it' is an understatement. Then I walked through the doors of West Central and felt hope for the first time in a long time. But I stopped coming as a client twice. Both times, I thought I was doing fine and was ready to move on. Then I'd stop taking my medications. The last time I left resulted in my first hospitalization.

I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I gave the staff a hard time. They called West Central, and Bill* showed up. I was awful to him. Hospital staff told me I would be sedated if I couldn't behave. I swore at them, and told them to knock me out because I'd had enough of them and I wasn't going to play nice. I woke up at the Brattleboro Retreat the next day.

My first day at the Retreat, I was a zombie. On my second day there, I started talking to people. I had been placed in the LGBTQ-specific wing, and I had never felt so accepted, so normal. I had finally found my tribe. I was there for 11 days. Then I left, but participated in the outpatient program for three weeks. I used that time to learn all I could about my brain. About my illness. 

After those three weeks, I returned to West Central as a client. I was in 3 different groups -- one focused on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), one on dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and a group for vocational illness management and recovery (VIMR). I continued to learn all I could about myself and my illness. I had an amazing clinician at West Central who really helped me to accept my issues. I had never felt so content, happy, and level in my whole life. I was also introduced to the CommonGround program. Pat Deegan was an inspiration for me -- and still is.

Before long I was doing so well, I was put on the step-down program, gradually reducing the number of appointments and services I was receiving from West Central. I knew I would miss the people of WCBH -- I'd been a client for the better part of 14 years! Then my Peer Support Specialist from the Common Ground program mentioned there was a job opening at West Central for another Peer Support Specialist. I was scared and nervous. I'd never even had an office job. But I was doing well and was excited to share all I had learned. With help, I applied for the job. I went from being a client to a Peer Support Specialist. I now love the work I do. I appreciate the clients, and I appreciate West Central.

I have moments here and there where symptoms start rearing their ugly heads. COVID-19 has been difficult to deal with -- my work starting and stopping and a lot of time alone. I don't like it. But I'm okay. I now know to stay on my medication. I recognize that antidepressants and mood stabilizers do wonders, but I'm not cured. Mental illness is part of me. But it's no longer an excuse, and it's no longer in charge of me. My brain may have a mind of its own, but now I'm in charge.

*Bill is Willard Metcalf, LICSW, West Central's Director of Emergency Services.

** CommonGround, a program founded by Pat Deegan, was designed for individuals in the process of recovery from mental health challenges. The program is utilized at West Central, where Peer Support Specialists - who themselves have been diagnosed and treated for mental Illness - use their personal stories and lived experiences to help others work toward recovery.
Need to set up your first appointment? Call our "New Client" Appointment Line:


Teletherapy and in-person appointments available
Did You Enjoy Doni's Story? Do You Have a Story to Share?

Have you been diagnosed with a mental Illness? Are you a clinician with thoughts to share? Do you have family or friends living with mental illness? We want to hear your story and your perspective! Sharing these thoughts and experiences helps to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourages compassion and acceptance. You don't have to use your name, and we can change identifying information. Email for more information.
On Compassion...
and Giving
Photo Credit: Noah Buscher

What matters most in this time of crisis is compassion, and being there for each other -- even though it might mean wearing a face mask from a distance, or talking by phone or online video. Our front-line clinicians and therapists are delivering the kind of compassionate and expert care people need as they reach out to us. This is a difficult time, and we are here to help. We're saving and improving lives, one client at a time.

We also reach out when we need help, and today, we ask for your support if you are able. Your year-end gift to West Central ensures we can continue to provide compassionate mental health and substance use disorder care to our Upper Valley and Sullivan County friends and neighbors. This year, the IRS is allowing a deduction of up to $300 for charitable gifts - even if you don't itemize. Gifts made before December 31st qualify.

If you are in crisis, we hope you will call on us for help at 800-564-2578. Now, we're calling on you. All gifts matter, of any size. Recurring monthly gifts are welcome, and can be made at the online giving link below. Your gift will be used for patient financial support, and for our COVID-19 related operating expenses. Thank you, and please accept our very best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

To learn more about the special IRS deduction for 2020, click here.

It's Twice as Nice!

Your generous support helped us meet the challenge match offered by the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, raising over $50,000 through our Annual Appeal so far this year. Let's not stop now. Please give generously if you are able. West Central relies on gifts of all sizes from people and organizations around our region.

Thank you, Thank you!!!
Funding Police vs. Social Services: Finding The Right Balance

Photo Credit: Erik Mclean

In the wake of George Floyd's death, an ongoing national debate has developed, questioning whether we spend too much on law enforcement, and whether this money could be better spent helping those living in poverty, in need of mental health services, or needing help to combat their substance use disorders. This debate has come home to roost, with the Lebanon Police Department recently in the news.

In late November, the Valley News published an opinion piece on the topic, referring to West Central's recent application for federal funding of a pilot program that would provide 24/7 mental health crisis professionals to serve as a "backup" to police on the growing number of mental health-related calls. These crisis clinicians would travel to the site of the emergency, instead of (or in addition to) police and first responders. West Central's President and CEO, Roger Osmun, pointed out that trained clinicians "can de-escalate [a] situation, keeping people out of emergency departments and out of jails." In turn, this can take the pressure off of police and first responders, allowing them to focus on the important work they are needed to do. To read the piece by Jim Kenyon, click here.
The Passing of a Treasured Friend, Dr. Alan Green
Doctor Alan Green, MD, a long-time West Central Board member and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Dartmouth died on November 26th. He was 77. Dr. Green is survived by his wife, Franny, and twins, Henry and Isobel.

A graduate of Columbia University in New York (’65), and The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (’69), Dr. Green's research focused on understanding the basis of schizophrenia and substance abuse and developing better treatments for these disorders. He will be missed by friends, family and community. Read the full obituary, published in the Valley News, here.
A Podcast for Your Ear

Looking for something topical? Check out our podcasts, under the multimedia section of West Central's website. Some of the topics featured include:

Marijuana and the Teenage Brain, with Diane Roston, MD of West Central Behavioral Health and Dr. Alan Budney, PhD of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Trauma Informed Care: How Adverse Childhood Experiences Impact Teen and Adult Physical & Emotional Health, with Erin Barnett, PhD of West Central Behavioral Health.

On Mindfulness, with Angela Krapovicky, MA, LCMHC of West Central Behavioral Health.

A Very COVID Christmas - Maintaining Your Mental Health During the Holidays
Photo Credit: Volodymyr Hryshenko

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Solstice, or another winter holiday, change is especially hard at this time of year. Holidays are all about traditions that usually involve family, friends, and group gatherings.

Most of us also are familiar with a vague sense of disappointment after the holidays. We simply can't quite shake the idea that our holiday should resemble something from the Hallmark channel, featuring rosy-cheeked children, snowflakes twirling downward, and a feast worthy of Bon Appetit. Our reality, however, may be cranky children with runny noses, sleet, and a Christmas turkey that slides off the platter and onto the floor during the pseudo-military operation known as "transfer the bird to the platter." What to do?

First, recognize that this holiday is going to be different, and be realistic. Trying to keep everything the same as years past may set everyone up for comparisons and, ultimately, disappointment. Keep the traditions that work, given the limitations of COVID-19 (leaving Christmas cookies out for Santa can still happen!), and try some new traditions in place of things that won't. Can't visit Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas dinner? Try a Christmas dinner where every household member gets to pick (and make -- or help to make) a dish of their choice. You may end up having macaroni and cheese paired with eggplant and green beans, but you also may have a few laughs in the process.

Be realistic. Recognize that holidays aren't perfect, and remember that it's NEVER quite the Hallmark moment you have in your head! Give everyone a little leeway, including yourself. Plan for some fun, allow for some "down" time, reach out to others for support, and get your exercise. As with any time of year, if your best efforts aren't enough, and you are persistently sad, anxious, have sleeping difficulties, or are otherwise "off your game", talk to your doctor or seek out a mental health professional. It is not a weakness, but a strength, to realize when you need help.
Opinion: Need-Blind Admissions and Community Mental Health

Dave Celone, our Director of Development and Community Relations, recently had an opinion piece published in the Eagle TImes of Claremont discussing the need for need-blind admissions in community mental health. Read Dave's piece Here.
We're Open...
If you aren't already a client, and you want to make your FIRST appointment, call us at: (603) 542-5128.
In-Person and Teletherapy Visits Available
Looking for Joy in Unusual Places: The Forgotten Sock

Sometimes we all need a laugh. Humor can help diffuse a simmering situation. In a beautifully creative way, a mother and daughter took what could have been an angry standoff about a dirty sock left in the bathroom, and turned it into a fun, bonding experience.

Curious how long it would take for her 10-year-old daughter to pick up her dirty sock in the bathroom, a mother left it there for a week. With no progress, she then created a display label, indentifying the piece as "Mixed Media" on "Loan from the collection of the artist." The daughter played along, providing a pedestal for the piece, and it went on from there. Enjoy the result that came over the course of several days...
Share This Newsletter: You Might Save a Life!
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This newsletter is sent monthly to all West Central staff, Board and Committee members, and our many friends and supporters with heartfelt thanks. Please share it with your friends and family so people remember our name and the work we do as this region's community mental health and
substance use center.

When people in need know who we are,
they'll contact us when they need help.
(for past newsletters click here)

Nurturing Dreams...Transforming Lives
West Central Behavioral Health serves clients in the Upper Valley and Sullivan County, and has offices in Lebanon, Claremont, and Newport, NH.
WCBH is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization.