Working for Wellness: Joining MHANYS

By Cohen Miles-Rath (staff)

Prior to starting my new position as a Project Coordinator here at the Mental Health Association in NY State, Inc. (MHANYS) in early September, 2019, I graduated with a Masters in Social Work and spent the summer searching for jobs. This was a difficult time for me because I had several challenging transitions. My mental wellness had deteriorated throughout the summer until it reached a breaking point. Finding work became difficult and working on my wellness did as well. 

During school, I was significantly busy with classes, an internship, and a part-time job. My schedule became more intense when I began the job application process. After squeezing in interviews throughout my last semester, I came away empty handed. There was also an underlying fear of the stigma I might face when potential employees research me. I explain this more in an article published by the National Alliance of Mental Illness Blog called But I was a Victim, Right? This created a foundation of stress on my mental health and it would only get worse from there.

Moving back home gave me an open schedule. I stopped having a daily routine and I was living in a different location once again. Although home was familiar, I no longer had access to what I had been used to for two years in school. I saved enough money to get me through the summer and continue interviews. But time went by, my savings dwindled, and I still did not secure a job I wanted.

The stress built up until everything crumbled around me. After a stressful interview, my mind would not stop racing. During a restless night that day, I began believing in things that weren’t true. These were warning signs of a psychotic break. My self-awareness and understanding of the disorder I have took over and I conceived a plan of action to deal with the issue at hand. At four in the morning I did not want to wake up anyone, although I should have used a mental health hotline if I had remembered it at the time. I debated about admitting myself into a hospital, but that felt extreme to me.

Then I remembered, coping strategies. I put on headphones and listened to a peaceful meditation playlist. Using my mantra, “I am here, I am home,” and other calming techniques, I was able to put my mind at rest and fall asleep. Although I woke up only an hour later, I felt a bit more calm. When the right time came, I left my room and talked to my father. I was honest about what I was going through and he listened attentively. Our conversation would alleviate some of the symptoms, but I still did not feel like myself. After considering the resources I had access to and a couple of phone calls, I was able to see a local therapist by 10:00 am. Luckily, the agency had walk-in appointments, something I would compare to an urgent care facility for physical illness. 

After meeting with the therapist, I worked on the recovery path we discussed. I did not have to go to the hospital, but I did need to take care of myself. Within two days, my mind felt stable again. I lived my summer a bit differently after that, focusing more on my wellness. And when it came time to do interviews again, I took a different approach because something wasn’t working. Through feedback from trusted sources of mine, I realized I tend to talk too vehemently in a professional interview. I restructured my thought process, practiced, and learned how to ground myself. This made me more calm and effective when being under the high stress pressure of an interview. 

A month went by and I had my interview with MHANYS. The organization and position appealed to me on many levels. The work being accomplished here is critical for our communities and the people have done an amazing job to make change for mental health. I am thrilled to be a part of the team and look forward to having a positive impact on raising mental health awareness and promoting wellness and recovery. I am working specifically for the School Mental Health Resource and Training Center where we support New York State public schools with implementing the 2016 state law requiring mental health instruction as part of the K-12 health curricula. 

I like to believe everything happens for a reason. What I went through has helped me to maintain the awareness of symptoms I experience and utilize skills to enhance my mental wellness. I was also able to improve my interviewing skills and seek other opportunities that would fit best for me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if this experience hadn’t happened. And now, I am back at work for my own wellness, while at the same time working to improve the wellness of others.