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  • Thomas House Family Shelter

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We often associate Spring with growth, renewal, and hope—the perfect mindset to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month and a perfect time to focus on having open conversations about mental health and wellness.

It is important to make mental health a priority every single day. Although conversations around mental health are becoming more normalized in our society, there are still some stigma, shame, and lack of education around the issue. Having a month to focus on raising awareness is what we need, but the work does not stop here.

Thomas House Addresses Mental Health

At Thomas House Family Shelter, mental health is a priority! Each family that walks through our doors are required to participate in at least 10 counseling sessions, which gives them the opportunity to address the unaddressed trauma that may have led to them becoming unhoused. We believe that healing and understanding their past will lead them to a better and more hopeful future. We want our families to leave our shelter feeling well equipped to continue building a life they can be proud of.

In addition, Thomas House provides our families with many other resources that all contribute to sustaining positive mental health. When a family no longer has to worry about meeting their basic need for shelter, food, and clothing it provides them with the flexibility and capacity to put an action plan together and focus on their goals.

In 1943, American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, proposed a Maslow's hierarchy of needs. He believed that human needs were arranged in the form of a hierarchy with physiological survival needs at the bottom and more creative and intellectual “self-actualization” needs at the top. With that in mind, as an organization we empower our families holistically to help them become independent and self-sufficient.

Hierarchy of Needs Through Programs & Services

To ensure all physiological needs are met, we not only provide shelter, we also provide food and clothing. Families receive weekly groceries so that they do not have to worry about where their next meal will come from. Furthermore, families have access to our donation center for any clothing needs they may have. Once these needs are satisfied, the needs for safety and security become salient.

Safety needs can be fulfilled through job security and health & wellbeing. With the support of our Career Development Program, our families are provided with assistance creating a resume, an opportunity to partake in a mock interview, and linked with a job force program. Obtaining a job gives our parents the hope and confidence they need to positively show up for their families and provide the necessary tools for success. In addition, we provide linkages and referrals to ensure our families can also take care of their physical well-being. Ensuring that every individual has access to doctors, dentists, optometrists, etc. all contributes to maintaining their mental health.

As our survival needs are met, the need for more interpersonal connections and relationships becomes more significant. Social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor that help to manage stress and other behavioral issues. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient, often coping more effectively with difficult times in our lives. To build this sense of love and belonging within our family units, Thomas House requires our parents to attend parenting classes where they learn skills to better communicate with their children and build community amongst each other. Thomas House Family Shelter believes that giving families the tools they need to build together will maintain the intimacy they need to stay together.

“The services have allowed me to cope with my trauma and triggers. It has given me the’ opportunity to feel safe and it has guided me through it. I am extremely grateful for the services I have received. I have become a better mother, friend, daughter, and overall person because of it.” -Cecilia (43)

For our youth, we want to ensure they have the opportunity to build a community with their peers and be in an environment where they can learn, grow, and thrive. Through our Youth Development Program and Teen Case Management, youth are provided with homework assistance, enrichment activities, and more importantly a safe space to talk about their dreams, goals, and aspirations for a brighter future to break a pattern of instability.

Creating an action plan with clear and obtainable goals is another way we support our families and build their self-esteem. Upon entry to our program, our families do a needs assessment and then create a housing plan for them to meet their goal of obtaining permanent housing. In addition, on a weekly basis, families meet with a Case Manager to see how they are progressing on the plan that was created. Each goal that is met while our families are here leads them to believe in their capability (to learn, achieve, and contribute to the world) and autonomy to do things on your own. This belief increases their self-esteem, therefore contributing to positive mental health and well-being.

“The services have helped me come to realize that I am not alone and that it is okay to ask for help. Throughout this process, I have determined that I am valued and loved by many people. This has helped me with my mental health because I struggled with low self-esteem but having these people/services has made me value life." -Melanie, 15

The final piece of the puzzle for our families is becoming independent and self-sufficient. With a safe & supportive environment, our families can realize their full potential and move into the next chapter of their lives with the tools and resources necessary to succeed. Maslow describes this level (self-actualization) as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, and “to become everything one is capable of becoming.”

Mental Health is Health

When it comes to mental wellness, small actions can have a significant impact on your life. Thomas House continues to prioritize mental health so that our families can cope with the stresses of life, be physically healthy, have good relationships, make meaningful contributions to their community, work productively, and realize your full potential.

Tips To Take Care of Your Mental Health

In celebration and acknowledgement of Mental Health Awareness month, here are a few simple tips to care for yourself and your mental health:

  • Get adequate sleep and rest. Our physical health and mental health are connected!

  • Stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet. Research indicates that a healthy gut can make direct changes to our mood and reduce depression, anxiety, and even in some cases, psychosis. See this article for information: Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis - PMC (

  • Engage in an enjoyable activity of your choice.

  • Get outside and move your body! Sunshine and fresh air has been scientifically proven to improve your mood and perspective.

  • Practice gratitude. Reflect on 3 positive things that took place during your day.

  • Practice positive self-affirmations. Shifting our focus to the little victories can change our outlook.

  • Talk it out. Reaching out to someone who you trust can help us feel more connected and heard.

  • Seek professional support. There is no shame in contacting a mental health professional for additional support. Your mental health maintenance is important!

Mental Health Resources

If you are experiencing a medical or life-threatening emergency, please contact 911. In the event you are experiencing a mental health crisis, here are a few mental health resources:

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline:

  • Dial 988 for 24/7 phone support.

Orange County Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (CAT):

  • 24/7 phone support (855) 625-4657

Los Angeles County Psychiatric Mobile Response Team (PMRT):

  • 1 (800) 854-7771

National Crisis Hotline for Veterans & Family (Orange County):

  • Dial (800) 273-8255 (Veterans should press options #1)

Veterans Crisis Line (24/7):

  • Dial 988 then press 1.

  • Start a confidential chat.

  • Text 838255.

  • If you have hearing loss, call TTY: (800) 799-4889.

Other General Mental Health Resources:

211 for Resources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):

  • Visit nami.og

Substance Use & Mental Health Services (SAMHSA):

  • 1 (800) 655-HELP or visit

National Child Traumatic Stress Network:

  • Visit

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