Hello. I am 28 years old, and mom to a ten-year-old boy. You could say I was forced to grow up at a young age based on my life choices, but I have had so much fun being a parent. Our hobbies include going on hikes, swimming, and going to Lake Chelan in the summer. I enjoy taking my son to the zoo to see the animals, and hosting movie nights. I’m not quite sure what I enjoy doing alone as I am always with my son, but I do need to find some of my own hobbies as he is getting older! I am also a case manager at Comprehensive Healthcare. Being a case manager is not exactly easy, but it is extremely rewarding.
Case managers have a lot of responsibilities—from facilitating educational coping skills groups and having in-depth conversations, to doing fun and engaging activities with clients. Primarily, however, my job involves helping others feel better, feel validated, and rebuild their trust in humanity when others have broken that trust. When I first started working as a case manager, I worked with adults and then transitioned to working with youth, and I am now working at our adolescent inpatient facility, Two Rivers Landing.
When kids are young, they go through so much in life, from finding their identity to dealing with day-to-day expectations of others. The children we work with face much more than just those challenges. Most have histories of trauma like bullying, sexual assault, abuse, and an inability to understand and manage their mental illness. Yes, they have good days, but unfortunately, they also have really rough days where their mental health becomes difficult for them to face alone.
Just recently, I witnessed a client escalate due to “hearing voices.” Although I have attended hours of training, I don’t think anything fully prepares you for seeing a child harm or try to harm themselves due to voices telling them to kill themselves. This situation is heartbreaking, but we help them by putting our emotions aside and help them build skills to manage their symptoms. At times, situations like this do make me feel sad; there are definitely hard days at work, but honestly, I am mostly glad they have a place that provides them with the support that they need. I am also grateful that I can help them find themselves again, that I can teach them coping skills to face the struggles that they have endured, and feel better than they did the day before. How? I simply continue to show them compassion—even on the days when they are calling me names, (they often return to talking to me like nothing happened the very next day). That may seem challenging, but really it is not when being considerate of the trauma they experienced and the recovery process.
Another unique part of my job is meeting with parents who bring their child to the facility. I am the first person a parent meets at the facility, even before meeting a therapist or a nurse. I don’t believe any parent is ever prepared for a situation when their child has experienced severe trauma, or attempted to harm themselves. I can only imagine how difficult it could be to know that their child needs help that they as a parent cannot provide, or how fearful it must be to leave their child with strangers. Part of my role is assuring parents that their child is in good hands.
Although it may seem like a difficult job, or like it’s a lot of responsibility, being a case manager definitely has great rewards. For one, I have a good team behind me, and that makes a huge difference. I thoroughly enjoy working with my team, and I learn so much from them.
Some of the other great rewards—seeing clients smile when I walk in the door, hearing a client actually say that they appreciate me, having great conversations about their future and what they plan on doing when they get home. The very, very best part, though, is seeing them ready to go home feeling safe and happy. To see a child who once wanted to end their life now planning a future; that makes every stressful moment worth every second.
My position as a case manager has also helped me be a better, well, me—to be a better mom, sister, aunt, and to just be a better person. I have learned an important life lesson that mental health is something we must all learn to live with. It is a journey that we must take one step at a time, and with the right help, the journey becomes easier and we learn how to stay safe with the right support. One of the most important lessons I have learned as a case manager is that we never know what people are struggling with, but one nice complement from a stranger may be all that is needed to brighten their day. Always be kind, you don’t know who may need it.