Super Staff Series: Connor McCarty

Super Staff Series: Connor McCarty

The Healthy365 Connection Center has a new team member! We are proud to welcome Connor McCarty, who will be serving our team as a Support Navigator with a special focus on clients and families within the justice system. His past social work and child welfare experience makes him the perfect fit for this role and we can’t wait to see our connections with the justice system continue to grow!

A background in child welfare

Connor is a familiar face at the Connection Center because of his past working relationships with his fellow Support Navigators. “I first got involved with Healthy365 through Christina Dewitt, she and I have worked together for about 7 years through social work,” said Connor. “She mentioned what she was doing here and that they were launching their justice program.”

Connor got his professional start in child welfare and has been serving Central Indiana for nearly a decade. “I have been in social work for about 10 years now. I have been working in child welfare for over six years,” he said. “When I was doing my undergrad I did various placements typically related to child welfare, and the majority of my professional work has been at the Department of Child Services.”

Transitioning into the justice system

When you think about working with clients in the justice system, you may just think about those who are incarcerated or on probation. However, families and children who have loved ones in the justice system are also largely affected. “I have worked very closely with the justice program because a lot of our clients overlap,” explained Connor. “I have worked directly with clients that have been in jail or prison, and that have transitioned out and worked with probation. I’ve learned to work collaboratively with them.”

A lot to love about Healthy365

Connor started working at the Healthy365 Connection Center just about a month ago on June 20, but it didn’t take much time for him to fall in love with the environment. “It is an amazing environment to work in and very supportive. Healthy365 is really client-driven and I love that,” said Connor.

He also appreciates how passionate Healthy365 is about our clients. “I love that the client is truly the main focus,” he said. “Everything we do relates to how this is going to benefit the client and, in turn, our community.” 

Unsurprisingly, one of his favorite programs at the Connection Center is one that can benefit children and families: “We can help link families to get coverage for health insurance. It’s an awesome resource because it’s not just Medicaid or the marketplace, it’s all of them. We can help families identify what works best for them and get them applied.”

A heart for Hancock County

Connor has a special place in his heart for local residents because he is one as well. “I’ve lived in Hancock County for about six and half years,” he said. “I lived in New Pal for most of that and then I recently relocated to Greenfield.” He also appreciates both the professional and personal benefits to be found here locally. “It’s a great community as far as collaboration,” he said. “It’s so easy to build those connections and relationships with people. I’ve worked in other counties and that is not always the case.”

Like many Hancock County locals, Connor loves the “small town” feel that can be found alongside a number of “big city” amenities. “I know a lot of people love that ‘small town feeling,’ but there are a lot of things to do and I love that it’s growing,” he said. “I love being able to be part of that growth, not just in this role but as a community member and being able to benefit from it.”

Rapid-fire questions:

If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?  

“Telekinesis… I would probably never get up.”

What is your favorite Indiana season and why?  

“I love the springtime because I love the outdoors. I love getting our garden and our yard ready for summer, planting and getting things pruned and cleaned up from the winter – that’s the best time.”

What is your favorite way to kick off a Monday? 

“If I’m being honest, it would be to drive through and get a McDonald’s Coke, and then show up to work and I am ready to go.”

What’s your most recent favorite read, movie, or show? 

“We just started Season 2 of ‘The Umbrella Academy’ on Netflix. I’m trying not to binge because we want to extend it but it’s awesome. Elliot Page is in it as a trans character, and as supporting and being in the community I love to see it. Sometimes I think major networks try to exaggerate real life and so it’s really refreshing to see it done well, in my opinion.”

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

Much focus is placed on the individuals who suffer from substance misuse disorders, but less so is given to the family, friends and loved ones who are also affected. Children especially are heavily impacted when parents misuse substances like alcohol, opioids or other drugs. We’re exploring the various ways that substance misuse can create struggles for an entire family — and how to get both parents and children the help they need. 

What happens when parents misuse substances?

According to the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, roughly seven million Americans under the age of 18 live with at least one parent who misuses alcohol. Children of an alcoholic could be affected as early as in utero if their mother drinks while pregnant. Studies show that “children from alcoholic families experience more physical, emotional and mental health problems than other youngsters.” They have to cope with the stress of their parents exhibiting emotional problems or irrational behavior and may even experience abuse or neglect. 

What are ACEs?

Children who live in a home with someone who misuses substances are likely to accumulate several ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. According to the CDC, ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur from the age of 0-17, which can include (but are not limited to) experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. Children of parents who misuse substances may also experience the ACE of living in an “environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding.” 

ACEs are often preventable, but unfortunately, they can have a lasting impact on individuals who experience them. Someone who has grown up with toxic stress, like living with a parent suffering from addiction, may have a hard time forming healthy or stable relationships in the future. They can struggle with finances, have an unstable work history, and may repeat patterns or further exposure to toxic stress, “due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.” Some racial/ethnic minority groups, as well as women, are at greater risk for experiencing multiple types of ACEs.

If you are interested in learning more about ACEs and whether you have experienced any of them, you can take an ACEs quiz at americanspcc.org/take-the-aces-quiz

Help for children when parents misuse substances

Most people have heard of AA or NA, also known as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, respectively. But did you know that there are also similar support group organizations for those who have loved ones with an addiction? Al-Anon is “a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Locally in Greenfield, these individuals can find support groups located at Bradley United Methodist, Amity United Methodist and The Way Out Club. Teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s drinking can attend an Alateen support group, with local options at Trinity Lutheran Church in Indianapolis or Ascension St. Vincent Anderson Center in Anderson.

The Support Navigators at the Healthy365 Connection Center can also provide a non-judgmental confidential listening ear for families and children affected by loved ones who misuse substances. We would be honored to connect you to local organizations and resources that can alleviate your suffering and improve your family’s overall wellness. Over the last few years, our Support Navigators have developed hundreds of meaningful relationships, partnered with numerous local organizations and offered support to many local families and individuals in their journey towards better mental health and freedom from substance misuse.

Contact us at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd. Suite G in Greenfield to work with a Support Navigator today!

Summer Mental Health Tips

Summer Mental Health Tips

June 21 is the first day of summer, and for many people that means trips to the pool, exciting outdoor activities and having fun. But for others, summer can be a difficult time for their mental health. We often hear about Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter, when the days are shorter and darker, but summer can bring about depression, anxiety and mental health issues as well. Let’s talk about how you can protect your summer mental health and how Healthy365 can connect you to available resources in Hancock County. 

How is mental health impacted during summer?

If you already suffer from anxiety or depression, it can feel extra hard to come out of your “winter hibernation” in the spring and summertime. While everyone else seems to be excited about the warmer weather and extra sunlight, someone with reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder or mental health issues may feel additional guilt or shame because they don’t feel that same excitement. 

Big weather changes that come in the spring and summer can also cause hormonal shifts or mood swings. Our circadian rhythm can get overwhelmed by changing seasons, and some people may need more time to adjust. Some typical symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or depression can include weight loss, changes in appetite, anxiety, irritability or insomnia.

Going outside

One of the silver linings about having feelings of depression in the summer versus the winter is that it’s much easier to get outside and soak in the Vitamin D. Even taking a short walk can boost your serotonin and improve your mood. If you notice your children are getting bored or having mood swings during summer break, keeping a loose schedule that includes time outside and playdates with others can be a great way to help them. 

Taking a relaxing vacation

Summer is obviously a great time for vacations. Your job (and schools) give you vacation time for a reason – so make sure to use it! Some people might find planning a trip stressful, so take advantage of online resources for vacation planning and find a place to get away. Try to use your vacation to unwind, clear your mind and refocus your energy so that you feel refreshed when you return home. 

Getting active

Exercising is another good way to treat feelings of depression or anxiety, and during the summer there are tons of options to get active. You could start training for a 5K or fun run, many of which take place in the summer or fall. You could take up a yoga practice to improve flexibility and try out some mindfulness meditation. You could even just take the kids to the park and try to keep up with them! However you feel comfortable, try getting active for at least 20-30 minutes a day and your body (and mind) will thank you for it. 

Maintaining proper sleep

On the flip side of getting active is getting a good night’s sleep. It can be easy to stay up late or sleep in during the more relaxed days of summer, but do your best to get in 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, with a relatively similar schedule for your bedtime and wake-up call each day. Sleep hygiene can have a big impact on mental health for people of all ages, so it’s important to set a good example for your family.  

Seeing a mental health professional

If your feelings of anxiety and depression persist or seem to be getting worse, it may be time to talk to your doctor or see a mental health professional. The Support Navigators at Healthy365 would be happy to provide you with a non-judgmental listening ear, and to connect you with local resources for your overall health and wellness.

Call us today at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd., Suite G in Greenfield to learn more about how you can improve your mental health this summer.

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a time to celebrate and honor those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. Pride is celebrated in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, often known as one of the first major demonstrations for gay liberation. At Healthy365, we serve and respect everyone in our local Central Indiana community, no matter your sexual or gender identity, and we also recognize that this population may be in greater need of our services. Let’s explore why mental health should be an important focus for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Higher rates of mental health issues

According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals are “2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals.” It is very important to note that being LGBTQ+ is not a mental disorder, as recognized by all major professional mental health organizations, but that the stigma and discrimination faced by this population can correlate with higher rates of mental health issues. 

Many LGBTQ+ individuals report that they have experienced discrimination when trying to access health services, and some may put off or avoid healthcare/treatment altogether because of this stigma. People in this community may also have less social support than others, including from family and close friends. This isolation and trauma can have major impacts on mental health, including comorbid disorders such as anxiety, substance misuse, depression, PTSD or suicidal thoughts. 

Marginalized communities within LGBTQ+

Although LGBTQ+ individuals, in general, are more likely to be victims of violence and discrimination, there are even smaller subsections of the community that are at a higher risk of mental health concerns. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), transgender individuals “are almost four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a substance use disorder.” 

Further, transgender individuals who identify as Black, Latino, Native American or Mixed Race are at an even higher risk of suicide attempts than the white transgender population. Young people in the LGBTQ+ community also experience higher rates of mental health concerns, with a four times higher rate of suicide attempts for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times higher for questioning youth compared to straight teens. 

How allies and education can help

Recognizing these statistics is an important first step to helping those in the LGBTQ+ community. If you have a loved one who identifies with a sexual or gender identity that is different from your own, you can actively listen to their needs and offer support wherever you can. Educate yourself on how to be a good ally, including asking respectful questions, taking the LGBTQ+ person’s lead on inclusive language, and asking for preferred pronouns/offering your own. If you make a mistake in how you refer to someone, apologize sincerely and try again. 

Pride celebrations, like our local Indy Pride in Indianapolis, are another great way for LGBTQ+ individuals to connect with others and feel less alone. Increasing visibility is very validating when many in this population may feel isolated within their family or a small town. Feeling connected to a community can have wonderful benefits for positive mental health, so celebrating Pride and the rich history of the LGBTQ+ population, even as an ally, can make a big difference in showing others you care. 

At Healthy365, our Support Navigators are happy to provide a confidential listening ear to our clients and would be honored to connect you or a loved one with an LGBTQ+ affirming mental health professional. Contact us today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the services we can provide for those struggling with mental health, substance misuse and more. And once again, Happy Pride!

Super Staff Series: Heidi Carmichael

Super Staff Series: Heidi Carmichael

The newest member of the Healthy365 team is our administrative assistant Heidi Carmichael. She is excited to serve the Hancock County community by connecting individuals with Support Navigators, as well as the myriad of mental health and substance misuse resources offered by Hancock Health and other local organizations. Next time you call the Healthy365 Connection Center, make sure to say hello to Heidi!

Experience in healthcare and beyond

Before entering the field of healthcare, Heidi spent a number of years working for a Midwest-based gas station and convenience store company. “I used to work for what was formerly GasAmerica in several different departments,” said Heidi, including payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. A little over a decade ago, she chose to transition into healthcare, a field she has become quite passionate about. 

“I have been in healthcare for 10 years now,” said Heidi. “I previously worked with Trilogy Health Services in admissions and marketing for a skilled nursing and assisted living facility.” When Healthy365 was looking to expand the team with a new administrative assistant, Heidi was excited to apply. “I was introduced to Healthy365 by a current coworker at Hancock Health, who I previously worked with in another healthcare setting,” she said. “I was ready to make a change from the location I was in.”

Joining the Healthy365 team

Although Heidi is a recent addition to Healthy365, she already feels at home. “I like the positive and supportive environment,” she said. Despite the serious nature of our work, the Healthy365 team makes it a point to both work hard and play hard, and Heidi has especially enjoyed getting to know the fun-loving environment at the Connection Center. “There is a lot of positive reinforcement,” she said. “And there are lots of fun pranks.”

In her work as administrative assistant, Heidi is often the first point of contact with individuals calling into Healthy365 for help. “I like to connect with people and help them find a navigator to manage their needs,” she explained. Heidi is also excited to see the Healthy365 Connection Center continue to grow our substance misuse resources for clients in need of this specific support. 

Serving the Hancock County community

A resident of neighboring Henry County, Heidi looks forward to serving her fellow Hoosiers as a member of the Healthy365 team. “My favorite thing about Hancock County is how it is a very close-knit community,” said Heidi. Like many of our clients and staff members, Heidi is continuing to learn about the wide variety of local organizations that are dedicated to serving Hancock County. “It’s also very supportive with lots of resources I’m learning,” she said.

Heidi and her husband of nearly 30 years, Gabe, also have a special connection to the local agricultural population. “Our family, previously alongside Gabe’s dad, is part of the farming community in Hancock and Henry Counties, which have a major rural agriculture focus.” Her family includes three children, one at Purdue, one at Ball State and one who just graduated as a Ball State Cardinal. Heidi also has a four-legged family member: “My favorite thing is to go home and just hang out with our dog, Boomer.”

Rapid-fire questions:

If you were a superhero, what superpower would you have?  

“Teleporting … travel time totally stinks!”

What is your favorite Indiana season and why?  

“Fall, because of the color and it’s cooler, no humidity.”

What is your favorite way to kick off a Monday? 

“Coffee!”

What’s your most recent favorite read, movie or show? 

“Yellowstone and 1883, I am completely addicted.”

Wellness Tips When Recovering From Substance Misuse

Wellness Tips When Recovering From Substance Misuse

Are you or a loved one recovering from substance misuse? The journey to wellness should be all-encompassing, incorporating all aspects of your life. While there is a big focus on the physical effects of addiction and your mental health, substance misuse can impact other areas as well. These wellness tips when recovering from addiction or substance abuse from the Support Navigators at Healthy365 can help you achieve a greater overall quality of life. 

Physical wellness 

Your physical health is often the most commonly thought of aspect of wellness. This is especially true for someone recovering from substance misuse, and a healthy diet and exercise can have a big impact on your wellness journey. Incorporating foods rich in omega-3s and protein specifically can improve your health while recovering. 

Omega-3, found in many types of fish, is an essential fatty acid that has been shown to improve mood disorders like depression, anxiety and ADHD thanks to its optimization of our brain cells and neurotransmitter signals. Eating protein for its amino acids is another great way to improve neurotransmitter production, especially for dopamine, in a brain that has been impacted by habitual drug use. Exercise can also make a big difference in substance misuse recovery for its ability to relieve stress, improve symptoms of depression and anxiety and even restore brain chemistry. 

Intellectual wellness

Speaking of the brain, consistent use of drugs and alcohol can change how your brain functions, even altering its structure. Once a body has fully detoxed from any substances, it can begin to recover and retrain the way its brain works. Our brains are constantly creating new cells and neural pathways, and although it can be a difficult process, it is totally possible to teach your brain to operate naturally once again, without the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are many forms of therapy focused on restoring brain function, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), that are offered in both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs. 

Emotional wellness

Rediscovering and retraining your emotions is another important part of substance misuse recovery. Many people begin using alcohol or drugs as a way to avoid their emotions or to numb themselves from a bad situation or past trauma. Finding emotional wellness in recovery will likely focus quite a bit on accepting your emotions, letting go of shame in order to forgive yourself and your past and developing a practice of mindfulness in order to observe and accept your emotions in the future without judgment. 

Occupational and financial wellness

As you come out of recovery and either return to work or look for a new job, a sense of purpose and satisfaction will be important to look for. Studies show that people with job satisfaction often feel their lives are more fulfilling, and the Mayo Clinic has many tips for finding better satisfaction and significance, no matter the job you currently hold. Closely connected to occupational wellness is financial wellness. An addiction to alcohol or drugs can have a major effect on your finances, and taking small but meaningful steps to achieve better financial security through wellness tips when recovering will make a positive impact.

Environmental, social and spiritual wellness

Your environment and the people you surround yourself with will also cause ripple effects on your recovery from substance misuse. Do your best to ensure that your living arrangements post-rehabilitation are calming and don’t tempt back into substance use. Same goes for your social life while in recovery. Spend time with friends and family who will encourage your sobriety, and also try to avoid social isolation, which can be a major trigger for relapse. Having a sense of spirituality (either religion or simply a greater sense of purpose) can bring greater meaning to your recovery as well. 

Are you interested in learning more about getting into recovery and improving your wellness after substance misuse? Our Healthy365 Support Navigators are here to support our Hancock County residents with a confidential listening ear, and to provide guidance and wellness tips when recovering from your specific life situation. Contact us today at 317-468-4231!