Philadelphia Connections is a city-funded organization that promotes a more competent behavioral health workforce by focusing on educational issues and collaborations with providers and government. One of its programs is the Enhanced Placement program, which has a goal of getting more of the best and brightest students to consider working in public and community agencies. To do this, Connections offers a stipend to social work, counseling, psychology, and other students who do internships or field placements in community settings, in return for their attending a seminar series on topics important to professionals working in the public system.
FRN members Kathleen Cantwell and Vivian Spiese, along with Maggie Hackman, present a seminar to four or more student seminar groups on "Consumer-Family Perspectives: What Helps/What Hurts" every year. According to their experience, they tell the students what it is like to have a mental disorder, to have a parent with a mental disorder, or to be a parent to someone with a mental disorder. They relate their personal stories, with an emphasis on what professionals and others did that was helpful with their problems (or wasn't). FRN's mission and activities are described as part of the seminar, and FRN literature is given out. The students are also told about confidentiality rules that relate to families, and a pre-test / post-test is given on that area to make sure the students are learning about this important area--and that, for example, a professional doesn't need a release to listen to a family member's concerns.
"I enjoyed all the presentations; however hearing from the individuals enmeshed in the system is an amazing experience. Thank you so much."
"All three stories were very touching and revealing. Thank you each for sharing your meaningful stories."
"Very interesting session especially because I rarely get to hear from consumers other than the ones I have worked with."
"I appreciated the level of self disclosure of the personal stories, which impact my work and professional."
"Beautiful personal stories from both presenters. Very moving, inspirational and applicable to my internship and career."
"The stories I heard today will quite possibly change my life, professionally as well as personally. I really wish these seminars lasted all day. All 3 presenters were amazing."
"Hearing personal stories of the presenters’ experience provided a lot of very useful insight which I will definitely use in practice."
"I wasn't sure how interesting / relevant this topic would be but I think it was extremely relevant/important to help us humanize mental illness. I think about how important it is to include families in treatment."
"These presentations were amazing, both powerful and practical. Thank you so much for bringing them to us."
"Great discussion and presenters could be a full-day presentation with just these three."