Ms. Ross: A person must be 13 years of age or older. I provide In our community, it is my experience that our peopleservices to teens and adults. I do an intake assessment ses- generally will go to their preacher first when a mentalsion. I do not diagnose but I ascertain what the needs of the health issue arises before presenting to a doctor orperson, I provide information on how a participant can get a other specialist with special training to deal with it. As Idiagnosis. I work with the African-American Mental Health Pro- said, I believe in a holistic approach to treating mentalviders and other mental health providers such as Western Si- illness, so while going to the preacher is fine, it iserra Psychiatric Associates. finnier if the person sees a mental health person, too.Essentially, we believe that knowledge is power. Participants If a person is considering suicide, church prayer isreceive homework assignments because active participation great, but a global outreach, medication, one-on-one,involves them in their recovery which is good for their mental other professional help puts the person in the best po-health. We educate their families as well as a case-by-case sition to be helped.basis. When others become involved they will become edu-Interviewer: How many families are being assisted by your cated on how to identify possible mental health symp-agency at this time? toms. AHMI can help as the person gets spiritual helpMs. Ross: We have educated over 2,000 people directly from the pastor, church and congregation. AHMI willthrough our “edu-tainment” programs. In this way we reach the help with the mental health issue and organize a holis-community on a broad scale to increase awareness of mental tic approach to education and healing. This approachillness in the community to remove the resistance many have has been utilized in the midst of the AIDs crisis in theagainst it as a health problem. 80’s – 2000’s so we can use it in the mental health field.Interviewer: Your website mentions your interaction with teens.How do you specifically engage the teen population? Knowledge is power. Applied knowledge is power in action. The more we help our people who are mentallyMs. Ross: We work with about 15 teens and have formed a 6 challenged (and not just regard some behaviors asor 7 member board. We also have teen volunteers and they “just weird” or “Dianne being Dianne”) the healthier andcome up with unique ways of reaching other teens. We receive higher functioning our community will be. Then, peoplereferrals from teens. The board has its own mission statement with mental illnesses will not just be on SSI for the restwith is “You Are Not Alone.” They participate in community out- of their lives, unproductive, just statistics, numbers, andreach and fundraisers such as car washes. They also have not just uncounted folks with mental disorders. They“peer-to-peer” meeting’s where they are paired up with other will be helping feed the homeless and do other benefi-teens, not as counselors, but as mutual sharing partners who cial works.have experienced similar issues so they discuss issues likedepression, school challenges, family stress, dating and so We are all in this together. We believe a holistic ap-forth. They are encouraged to do their homework, develop proach is best for addressing our issue that negativelypositive goals, attend social events together and [touch base affects people – mental illness – in a holistic way: emo-with me if an issue is of seriousness concern to them]. We cur- tionally, spiritually, physically, financially and mentally.rently have teens who attend three major high schools in Sac- Our goal is for people to live healthy, holistic lives soramento and Elk Grove, Kennedy High, Sacramento High, and their whole lives reflect good health. Accordingly, weValley High. All of their activities are overseen by adults. We address mental health challenges and learning disabili-are really proud of what our teens are doing. ties with all the holistic tools we have available.Interviewer: What would you like the community to know most Dianne Ross, RNabout AHMI?Ms. Ross: Number 1, that we are here to help. We would like Ms. Dianne Ross, RN,for more business and community professionals to get involved is the founder andin helping us get the word out. [Mental health issues are real CEO of AHMI. Whilehealth matters like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure she teaches and in-and cancer is and it is time we address them openly and with- spires others on howout shame.] to successfully man- age their mental ill-We would like for more community involvement to become part nesses, Ms. Rossof our mission to educate, enlighten, enrich, and inform thegeneral population. We serve everyone however, my life and also leads by example as she also positively managesexperience as an African-American and my similar life experi- her own mental illness.ence with other African-Americans makes me uniquely qualified Please visit www.ahmi4u.org for more information onto work with similarly situated persons. the Araven Holistic Mind Institute.Interview was conducted by Ann Adams for the Empowerment Magazine.Anne is currently working part time as a volunteer receptionist at the Wellness and Recover Center onMarconi Avenue. She has served as a board member and residential leader for the Sacramento Mu-tual Housing Association. She has worked for 15 years in Law Enforcement agencies at the state andcounty levels and also has 4 years of working with children with learning disabilities.