Mariam Lowe: Mental Health Community Educator VISTA
January 19, 2018
Mariam Lowe moved across country to San Angelo to volunteer for a year of National Service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Concho Valley VISTA Placement Project. She is enthusiastic about her work as the AmeriCorps VISTA Mental Health Community Educator for West Texas Counseling and Guidance (WTCG).
Mariam started her VISTA year in August 2017. Her goal at WTCG is to reduce misunderstanding and stigmatizing of mental illness in our region. The recent Community Health Needs Assessment of the Poor and Extremely Poor in West Texas shows that area individuals living with low income do not believe that behavioral counseling services are affordable or available for them. The perceived cost barrier combines with a bootstrap attitude toward dealing with personal emotional or mental problems to sideline troubled residents from seeking beneficial services.
Mariam is expanding the reach of WTCG funding and service capacity in West Texas by increasing awareness through outreach, hosting events and social media. Her first event was to organize a Dove Hunt for donors and board members to raise funds for the WTCG veterans program featuring suicide prevention services.
WTCG suicide prevention and awareness services were also the focus of Mariam’s work on the “Shine A Light” which memorialized loved ones with luminaries and raised donations from businesses and donors during the Holiday Season. Also, working with a student assistant, Mariam developed the “Darkest Night” appeal.
This appeal created “Darkest Night” yard signs with the mission statement, “Not One More.” In addition, Mariam and the student assistant used social media and mailed letters to reach more than 400 people. The appeal was a successful effort to end the stigma of mental health and challenge the bootstrap mentality while providing support to WTCG. The Junior League of San Angelo has shown an interest to team up with WTCG to support a bigger event in the future.
Mariam’s extensive research and planning activity for a Zero Suicide Initiative is also a meaningful contribution to the long-range sustainability of suicide prevention and awareness services at WTCG.