Interview with Dianne Ross, RN Founder and CEO of Araven Holistic Mind Institute (AHMI)Interviewer: What are the percentages in terms of Afri- At the core of the FBIM program is a holistic and bi-holisticcan-Americans being afflicted by mental illnesses being approaches. Holistic means that the program touches the fiveable to receive mental health services? aspects of a person’s life to get at how mental illness has dis- rupted them emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, andMs. Ross: I have not been able to find any current sta- mentally. Bi-holistic means that one’s life (“bio”) must betistics regarding how many African-Americans there are steered towards healthy inputs: good diet, good nutrition, goodwith diagnosed mental illnesses. Suicide rates and the exercise, good financial pursuits, and so on because a short-like exist. According to NAMI, the National Alliance on age in any area will hurt the other four life aspects.Mental Illness, the suicide rate compared between Afri-can-Americans and Caucasian teens shows that African I believe that small, incremental steps to health-ness in each-American suicide is more than twice as frequent as that area are vital. Encouragement is vital too becausewith Caucasian teens. “backsliding” is the mental health problem that is human na- ture and inevitable. The focus aspect of this program is de-As a result of the lack of statistical information on mental signed to get the person to examine their role in the crisis thatillnesses in the African-American or Black community, recently afflicted them.Araven Holistic Mind Institute (AHMI) surveys peopleduring all of our functions to get ethnicity, age, gender, Also, I instruct participants on how their brains function, espe-anecdotal, diagnosed and suspected information on inci- cially how the chemicals in the brain affect their feelings,dences of mental illnesses in our community. moods, thoughts, actions, physically and so forth. Learning about establishing good brain chemistry behaviors is a veryInterviewer: How did you get involved in helping people important aspect of the FBIM program.with mental health challenges?Ms. Ross: My own personal experience. In 1992, I was I teach about how sleep cycles, fight or flight syndrome, dopa-diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder I was a charge nurse mine a brain chemical or hormone “neuron” transmission activ-at Kaiser (South) Hospital in Sacramento, Ca. I could ity and its effects on various mental illnesses. Lastly, I’ve beennot sleep and experienced odd behavior. I was hospital- teaching about how important it is for a person experiencingized and declared 5150, a danger to myself and others. mental health challenges to ask for help from a loved one in addition to professional help from a therapist or psychiatristI was referred to support groups but I could not identify who is a medical doctor trained to deal with and prescribewith them because there were no African-Americans medications.peers in my groups. Blacks sometimes appeared in hos-pital group settings but not in significant numbers. NAMI As you can tell from the above, teachings active participationoffered peer-to-peer, but no long term groups material- is vital to our program. I believe healing is a personal state ofized. So, I was in a cycle: hospitalized, released, doing mind a person must reach as much as outside inputswell, going to support groups and feeling uncomfortable, (medication, therapy and information) in bringing about recov-relapsing, and starting over. I learned how to recognize ery.triggers but not how to manage my illness and be pro- Interviewer: So what I hear you saying is that the differenceductively functional in society. These events inspired with Araven is that you offer long-term support groups?me to start AHMI in January, 2009 Araven is a non-profitIRS 501(c) (3) public benefit, tax donation Deductible Ms. Ross: No. We do not do support groups. We focus onCorporation. educating the individual on the mental illness and on the things that triggered it: internal and external. The thing thatInterviewer: What are some of the holistic approaches came out of my experiences is that personal education at leastthat you have used to help people in the process of re- for me is the key to personal change and illness management.covery and wellness? At Araven, we provide brochures, PowerPoint presentationsMs. Ross: I believe in traditional and non-traditional via a Speakers and conferences once a year. Araven hosts amethods of addressing mental health issues? I also be- concert where teens are involved. The teens also put on skitslieve that if you need and have been prescribed medica- where they act out mental illness behaviors to educate thetion you should take it! I take medication so I am a audience. We call it “edutainment” because it does both: edu-strong advocate for taking “meds”. If someone has cate and entertain.stopped taking their medication, I try to find out why and Interviewer: Do you refer people to support groups? How areaddress this situation. people referred to your agency?One of AHMI’s programs is the Focus Believing Individ- Ms. Ross: We are listed in the telephone book and we workual Model (FBIM). Here, participants actively learn with community and faith-based leaders. We get referralsabout their particular mental illness and receive one-on- from pastors; we advertise and attend functions dealing withone education and input. mental illnesses and learning disabilities and by the word of mouth method.We want them to focus on the causes of their illness andunderstand their role in resolving the issue. Interviewer: What is the criterion to receive services from Araven?