The celebration of Women’s Equality Day on August 26 is both a reminder of how far women have advanced since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment on that date in 1920, as well as how much remains to be done to ensure gender equality.
Research shows that 1 in 4 women are homeless as a result of violence against them, and that women are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of trauma.
MHA’s Florida Street residential treatment program helps women who have experienced severe trauma and psychiatric illness live with greater independence.
Cleopatra Allain, Program Director in MHA’s Division of Housing and Recovery, said the women understand in entering the program that its long-term goal is to help them “reclaim their independence and live on their own.”
“In addition to their struggle with varying kinds of trauma, the individuals in the Women’s Program also struggle with mental health and substance use challenges,” Cleopatra said. “With the help of their team, they are able to identify services and supports needed.”
She said that the women served are “very vocal in their needs and wants” and that staff help them “navigate in the right direction of services.”
Key, she added, is a holistic and comprehensive approach to ensure an individual’s mental, behavioral and emotional health care needs are met “in unison.”
“The women served require these needs to be addressed in unison,” Cleopatra said. “The women cannot benefit if services provision is structured to meet a need in one area only. They need a structure where service provision simultaneously addresses all of their needs as they struggle on a daily basis with them.”
Cleopatra said the program “maintains a very home-like atmosphere.”
“The staff respect the space as the women’s home and the women share the space as a family,” Cleopatra said. “Staff are trained to be mindful of the past trauma of the women served.”
She said if an individual experiences an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder the crisis is addressed individually, but in a way that “all women are secure in their space” and staff are available for “one-on-one questioning or conversation.”
Cleopatra said that staff share with the women “areas noted for improvement, and discuss with them their thoughts on an area of improvement.”
“When the women embrace the support of their program, we definitely see growth and success,” Cleopatra said. “When they are comfortable with their emotional-mental wellness, we see an increase in supported employment or day-program attendance, increased community participation, increased performance around daily living and independence skills.”
She added that staff “remind the women daily of small achievements.”
“We celebrate every accomplishment and acknowledge their efforts in working toward, as well as achieving, every goal,” Cleopatra said. “We celebrate birthdays and recognize different anniversaries. We celebrate days with no events but just because they made it to that day. We share with the women that their day-to-day challenges do not define them nor do the days they may not feel successful. Their success is their resilience to keeping trying every day.”
For more information MHA’s outpatient therapy services as well as residential programs, call MHA-844-WELL. For more information on Women’s Mental Health, visit https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health