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Nancy’s Corner


Nancy Foster is passionate about making a difference in Long Beach. Read Nancy’s updates on her work and the people she meets in the community.

Opening up MemorialCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness

I am honored to serve as an ambassador for the Community Hospital Long Beach and I was invited to their MemoricalCare Center for Mental Health & Wellness ribbon-cutting ceremony. A hospital so committed to mental health doesn’t happen very often, but the special people at Community Hospital Long Beach realized the need and made it a reality.

 

It’s important to have this center in our community and a hospital that recognizes mental health goes hand in hand with physical health. For example, did you know that people with depression are more at risk to suffer a heart attack or stroke?

 

In addition to the new partial hospitalization/intensive outpatient program and the psychiatric outpatient clinic, the Center for Mental Health & Wellness offers a 28-bed psychiatric acute inpatient treatment program, a geriatric psychiatry program and one of the region’s perinatal mood and anxiety disorder programs with both inpatient and outpatient care.

 

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the staff asked guests to take a photo and write something inspirational on the six-foot wall that symbolized Community Hospital Long Beach’s commitment to mental health care in Long Beach. I wrote, “Keep Hope Alive! Where there is hope, there is life!”

 

I am so appreciate for everyone involved who made this day possible!

Memorial Center for Mental Health & Wellness

 

 

You probably already know that mental health is an important issue for me. But did you know that May is Mental Health Month? Your mental health is essential to your overall health and well-being.

 

Mental Health America (MHA) started Mental Health Month more than 60 years ago to raise awareness about mental wellness. I’ve been working closely with MHA of Los Angeles on mental health issues and last year they asked me to participate in their “One in Four” event, a collaboration with Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Long Beach/West Orange County and the Alpert Jewish Community Center.  Why was it called “One in Four”? Because one in four people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives.  In fact, mental health issues are the leading cause of disability in the world.

One in Four

 

It’s quite possible you might know someone who needs encouragement to talk about his or her mental health. Organizations like MHA are an excellent resource to educate us on how to take care of our mental wellness. They outline steps to build and maintain well-being. MHA can help us achieve wellness through a balanced diet, regular exercise, enough sleep, a sense of self-worth, development of coping skills that promote resiliency, emotional awareness, and connections to family, friends and the community. During Mental Health Month, I hope you have a chance to read up on mental health – and MHA of Los Angeles is a great place to start.

 

Recently, I read a wonderful viewpoint from Julia Hess about her grandmother’s struggle with depression. For many years after her husband passed away, Julia’s grandmother kept her weekly visits to her psychiatrist under wraps. It was only after she passed that Julia’s family opened up about her illness and Julia came forward with her own 20 years of depression. Click here to read her story.

 

Thank goodness my grandchildren are familiar with the signs of depression because I have been so open about my mental wellness and my difficult times. It is vital for everyone to do their best to help alleviate the stigma associated with mental health. We learn from one another when we are open and share information just like how we talk about the best foods to eat to feel healthier and lose weight.

 

I encourage you to reach out and support each other during May Mental Health Month!

 

I never thought of myself as a celebrity, but the Long Beach Public Library Foundation asked me to be one of their “celebrity readers” for the 2013 “Long Beach Reads One Book.” This week long citywide reading project is geared towards strengthening community ties by encouraging everyone in Long Beach to enjoy a single book at the same time.

 

 

This year’s book was “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein, which explored the importance of the human-pet pair. As one of the celebrity readers, I participated in the Human-Animal Bond event at Good Neighbor Park. It was a lot of fun to get together with the community to hear experts speak about how to keep their dogs happy and healthy. Although we don’t own a dog, I know that we certainly understand the importance of the human-pet relationship! I also took part of the day-long read-a-thon.

 

 

The Long Beach Public Library Foundation seeks to promote and expand appreciation for literature and the exchange of ideas that develop from different perspectives. Funds generated from the event will be used to buy books for libraries, students, and senior centers, to design and print publicity materials, and to help the Long Beach Public Libraries in their mission to enhance literacy. Read more about it about here: http://longbeachreadsonebook.com/about/

 

(Left to right) Long Beach Reads One Book co-chair Mary Barton; Justin Rudd;  Long Beach Reads One Book co-chair Susan Redfield; Cookie Braude cutting the beautiful cake (book) donated by Charlie Feder, owner of Rossmoor Pastries; Dr. Greg Perrault, owner of Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital.

(Left to right) Long Beach Reads One Book co-chair Mary Barton; Justin Rudd; Long Beach Reads One Book co-chair Susan Redfield; Cookie Braude cutting the beautiful cake (book) donated by Charlie Feder, owner of Rossmoor Pastries; Dr. Greg Perrault, owner of Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital.

I recently wrote a guest commentary for the Gazette newspaper.  Read it all below!

 

My wish is that we start with educating the second- and third-grade students in our schools (about mental health)!

 

I have spoken to this age group in Long Beach about depression and they really seemed to grasp, and understood what I was sharing.

 

I also encouraged them to remember that day, with describing the symptoms of depression. Sometime in their life, they would struggle, or a friend or loved one would struggle with mental health. They would look back and be able to recognize that they needed to talk to mom or dad or help someone who needed a friend to listen.

 

I shared that they may be experiencing depression if they were not going out to play as often, or wanting/spending more time alone. Also, if they were having difficulty with focusing on their schoolwork, or experiencing mental confusion, or feeling sad — not enjoying life as they usually do.

 

I stressed, there is no shame with this illness, as with any illness. The earlier a person gets treatment, many times, the better and easier the diagnosis, and treatment responds more quickly.

 

One child asked me if a person can die from depression. My response, was, “Yes, a person can die from depression, but only if a person harms themself.”

 

This is why it so important to educate children at an early age, just as we do with sex education. Mental health could be included with this subject, as well.

 

People make better choices when a person’s mental health is intact, another reason to link the two together. Safe Sex!

 

Also, there is postpartum depression, linked with sex education. I was a victim of postpartum depression, two months after the birth of our second son. Years ago, the medical profession wasn’t nearly as educated about postpartum depression. We are still on this path of discovery and education.

 

For some moms, who are severely depressed, this can so be a dangerous environment for a baby, themselves, and the entire family. In the news, there are reports of moms taking their life and their children and we owe it to our students to bring awareness.

 

What good does a quality education provide if a person is not living a quality life, or having thoughts of suicide or eventually takes their life? 1,800 college students take their life each year. Obviously they get in a frame of mind that ending their life is their only escape from the excruciating mental and actual physical pain. They keep this pain to themselves. They also can be experiencing shame.

 

The mindset of a person suffering with depression is they are surrounded with a mental state, constantly being fed thoughts that they are not worthwhile, they are less than others. There is actually a feeling of shame about how they are feeling.

 

This is why it is so difficult for people to go for help, along with the stigma associated with mental illness, and huge self-doubt, and with depression, it is duplicated.

 

With information and education, come familiarity. And familiarity means being more comfortable with a subject. A person is more likely to share and feel in control of their life with this knowledge.

 

Educating about mental health can also help avoid drug abuse. Teens mask the pain associated with depression with drinking and drugs, called self-medicating. Then the problem of addiction kicks in. Now, a person has two problems to address, making it more difficult.

 

If an addict’s life gets out of control, it can bring incarceration, dropping out of school, loss of furthering one’s education, no interest in ones community. There is separation from the family, and the worst overdosing, which is on the rise again in teenagers, heroin addiction. Black tar heroin is less expensive, and is a huge problem again.

 

Getting back to the school children I spoke to, their thank-you notes clearly displayed that these children understand the importance of their mental health, and they were appreciative. They understood what I shared, and they will look back on that day in that classroom and remember. I am so pleased to have had that opportunity to talk, share with these children. I will never forget it. It’s one of the highlights of my life.

 

Thank you again, and I look forward to more discussion, along with working on alleviating the stigma associated with mental illness.

 

 

 

Bob recently delivered his annual State of the City address and I was the lucky gal who got to introduce him.

 

Bob and I were both fighting off colds that night.  So if you had caught us in the green room before the speech, we were both nursing hot cups of tea with honey.  But we rallied knowing that people were sitting and waiting for us in the Center Theater.

 

It was an incredible feeling to be on stage in front of hundreds of people and many more who were watching the State of the City online.  I was so honored to be the one to recognize all of our elected officials and honored guests who attended Bob’s State of the City.  As I stood there speaking about Bob, I have to say that it was one of the highlights of my life!  Bob has always been so supportive of me and so it was wonderful to do this for him.  Our partnership and our 44-year marriage has been an incredible experience.  And Bob surprised me with flowers as he walked on stage.  He did a great job delivering his speech!  I was so proud of him that night.

State of the City

 

State of the City

 

Me and Bob with Gloria Deukmejian and former Governor George Deukmejian.

Me and Bob with Gloria Deukmejian and former Governor George Deukmejian.

Michelle Patterson of Premiere Event Production Company interviewed me for her podcast.  Can you believe that just the two of us chatted for almost an hour?  She set up her equipment in the hallway of our house and we talked about mental health, the California Women’s Conference, the Ronald McDonald House, my grandkids, Bob and Noah!  Click here to listen to our conversation.

 

As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade.”

Our cat Noah was pretty sick recently. Thankfully he is much better now. It’s because of Noah that I had to stay at home and did nothing but fundraise for the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House Walk. In fact, Noah and I became the top fundraisers for the walk!

Me and Bob at the 2012 Walk for Kids.

Bob and I are devoted to the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House. The Long Beach Ronald McDonald House serves as a “home-away-from-home” for families of children undergoing treatment for life-threatening illnesses at nearby hospitals and medical facilities, including Miller Children’s Hospital. The Ronald McDonald House provides inexpensive, and often free, lodging for families who often travel long distances (sometimes from out of state) to obtain specialized medical care for their children. The Long Beach Ronald McDonald House opened in December 2011. I currently serve as a board trustee, chair to the Advisory Board and I’m the assistant chair for the 2012 Walk for Kids.

 

The 2012 Walk for Kids benefiting the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House was a great success. We had a goal of raising $150,000 and to this day, we raised almost $200,000. There were more than 2,000 walkers in Shoreline Park! It was a great day for a wonderful cause. And the walk proved that Noah and I make a great fundraising team!

Me and Bob with Cheri Bazley, the executive director of the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House.

There are so many wonderful organizations in Long Beach!

Operation Teddy Bear

Jim Grubbs, development director for The Volunteer Center, asked me to be involved with Operation Teddy Bear five years ago. Every December, Operation Teddy Bear helps 5,600 disadvantaged first graders in Long Beach and surrounding areas by giving them backpacks. Each backpack is loaded with various school supplies, including reading books, crayons, math flash cards as well as Teddy Bears! The Volunteer Center South Bay-Harbor-Long Beach runs Operation Teddy Bear with the support of generous donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. They also look for volunteers who can help assemble and deliver the backpacks to the children. Visit their website at www.volcenter.org to see how you can help.

(Left to right): Executive Director of the Long Beach Library Foundation Sara Pillet, me and Volunteer Center South Bay Jim Grubbs at a recent fundraising reception for Operation Teddy Bear.

 

Long Beach Day Nursery’s “Stepping Stones for Success”

Anything that helps children is very important to me. That’s why Bob and I are honored to serve as this year’s Honorary Co-chairs for Long Beach Day Nursery’s “Stepping Stones for Success” scholarship program. This amazing scholarship helps remove financial barriers and would allow parents to enroll their child in the highly accredited Long Beach Day Nursery. Families who are considered to be working poor, or earn between 70% and 100% of the state median income, are eligible for this scholarship. This wonderful school has been in Long Beach since 1912 – almost 100 years!

Last month, I attended a lovely reception hosted in the home of Sandy and Deloris Mayuga recognizing our co-chairing efforts. More than 50 people attended the reception. We’ve achieved almost half of our fundraising goal of $130,400 just in the last three months! Thank you to everyone who attended the reception and generously donated to the “Stepping Stones for Success” scholarship!  Visit www.lbdn.org for more info.

With Long Beach Day Nursery Board Chair Melanie Retzsch Werts (left) and Long Beach Day Nursery Executive Director Patrice Wong (right).

Bob and I attended the Poly vs. Millikan football game last Friday.  He got to toss the coin at the beginning of the game and I took photos. 

Millikan was the home team that night.

Poly Jackrabbits vs. Millikan Rams!

Coin toss!

I’ve been open about my personal struggle with depression and bipolar disorder for five years now. Since that time, I’ve been asked to speak to hundreds of people all over Long Beach about mental health issues. Mental illness is not an easy topic to discuss. But I want to not only to tell my story, but also to let people know that they are not alone.

By coming out with my personal story, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to countless people about mental illness and gotten to know some fantastic nonprofits like The Guidance Center. The Guidance Center honored me with their Hope Award last year for my advocacy work in mental health. Since then, I’ve been getting to know The Guidance Center and the work they do.

The Guidance Center has been doing a terrific job providing much needed mental health services to Long Beach for the past 60 years. The Guidance Center provides comprehensive mental health treatment to more than 2,000 children and families a year and helps lead them toward a positive and productive future. The Center serves the communities of Long Beach, Compton/Lynwood, San Pedro and Avalon on Catalina Island. For more information about The Guidance Center, visit www.tgclb.org or call 562-485-3095.

I’m excited to say that The Guidance Center asked me recently to join their board of directors. I’m looking forward to working with The Guidance Center board and staff to help children who are struggling with depression and other mental health disorders.

Here are some photos from last weeks’ the Sunset Wine Reception that benefited The Guidance Center:

Speaking with The Guidance Center Board Member Dr. Melvin Marks.

With Dr. Joseph K. Lyou, The Guidance Center executive director Patricia Costales, and the Mayor.

Top photo (left to right):  The Guidance Center executive diretor Patricia Costales, The Guidance Center Board Member Dr. Melvin Marks and Nancy.

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