Success Stories

Success Stories2022-09-08T16:30:27+00:00

These stories highlight some of the ways Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) funding is improving the quality of life for Alameda County residents who live with a mental illness. Individuals with mental health challenges may struggle with poverty and employment. Here you will find stories of success in helping them obtain and keep jobs. The result: individuals are contributing members of society and feel useful, competent and proud. In addition, one story describes county efforts to build and expand the public behavioral health workforce. Alameda County Behavioral Health (ACBH) funds the programs described here with MHSA money. The Mental Health Services Act monies are collected from a 1 percent tax placed on Californians with a personal income above $1 million.

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Samu Tiavolo

Samu Tiavolo is a seventeen-year-old from Hayward, CA. He is currently a senior at Mt. Eden High School. He is the ASB Secretary, Polynesian Club president, and has served in his school leadership program for all four years of high school. Samu has the heart to serve the school and his peers. He also serves the Hayward community as well. He has a passion for going to college, learning, studying and being his own boss one day. He is also very passionate about his culture and the roots of where he comes from. He has a bright future ahead of him and Samu loves and cares for his family. There were times where Samu had been at his lowest. One [...]

Dennis Hong

Dennis Hong is from Fremont, California where he spent most of his life and it's mostly a diverse population that connects to other cities in the Bay Area. Growing up “On The Spectrum”, Dennis has always been isolated mostly from his family and peers. He usually got into trouble and this was due to the bullying and strict discipline he had during his childhood that affected him mentally and emotionally which it was not taken seriously until he graduated from university with a bachelor's degree. However, it was through these challenges and events that helped shape him into the person that he is today. He also has built values around ideals that are important to him. It shows that a [...]

Devynn A Trahan

Devynn A Trahan is a student athlete at Skyline High school in Oakland CA. He grew up near 23rd Avenue for most of his life. He went to Cleveland elementary school for his early developmental years. He then transferred to Edna Brewer Middle school which is when he started to play football. He attended a few more middle schools before graduating from Elmhurst United Middle School. Devynn then went on to Castlemont Highschool for two years and Skyline high school where he continues his academic journey as a Skyline high school senior. After graduating, he will be heading to Contra Costa college to continue his education and sports in Football and Track. Devynn had been through a lot of mental [...]

Victor Camberos

Victor Camberos was born in Fresno CA and lived there for 11 years before moving to a little city right next to Fresno called “Madera” and lived there for 3 years. He now lives in Alameda County in Oakland, CA. He moved from Madera back to Fresno due to personal family issues and made the ultimate decision after 4 more years of living in Fresno, to move to Oakland. Victor chose to move to Oakland due to mental issues and just wanted to finally take the initiative to better himself to live a more positive life. Victor was diagnosed with manic depression and high anxiety at the age of 11. During his times of depression things got rough for him. [...]

Kalina Francois

Kalina Francois was born and raised in the Bay Area. She grew up in Oakland California and moved to Castro Valley California at the age of nine. Her childhood involved moving from a gentrified neighborhood in the Oakland Hills to a predominately white and Asian community. Being a black girl in such a setting was quite difficult for Kalina because it seemed that she never really had a space to call her own which made her feel out of place. Was she too loud? Why did her hair not grow like her peers? Why are all the white kids getting students of the year, and her and her Black friends not?  She felt so different than everyone else and felt [...]

Joaquin Saavedra MacCarthy Thin

Joaquin Saavedra MacCarthy Thin, grew up in Oakland California. Joaquin, having a Mexican/Vietnamese mom, and white dad, was an interesting upbringing. He felt that when you are young; you are impressionable, building principles, foundation, values, and perspectives. He was 12 when he went to an Art Middle School in Downtown Oakland. Kids used to tell him you aren't a “true Mexican “or a “true person of color”. He felt hurt and confused because he knew he was a person of color and it was in his roots and in his culture. Joaquin went through depression when he was in middle school. He was 13 years old when he saw his first therapist and he hated going as he didn't want [...]

Aisha Scott

Born and raised in Oakland, Aisha Scott knows the pitfalls leading to a judicial system difficult to escape. Aisha was a gifted child whose love of reading had her literally bumping into street poles; and as a student, rarely having homework as it was completed before leaving school each day. Around the age of ten or eleven Aisha began drinking and running away from home. A dysfunctional relationship with her father introduced her to wine and marijuana which changed Aisha’s life path. The final straw was her sister Ameenah’s murder at the age of sixteen. She was fifteen years old when her sister’s body was found in an Oakland schoolyard. It was a full year later, while riding home on [...]

Christina Murphy and Crystrial Murphy

What can touch us more profoundly than the stories our loved ones share with us? In the case of Crystrial Murphy, Christina speaks of the mental health crisis that turned her younger sister's life upside down, derailing the pursuit of her college education. Christina and Crystrial are multi-racial/cultural. Born in Berkeley to an African/Native American mother, and African/Filipino father she self-identifies as “mixed-race/culture”. Their Native American heritage comes from their maternal grandmother. Rejected by classmates on all sides of their ethnic identities, they struggled with feelings of not belonging. Psychological abuse at home led Christina to run away and to be placed into psychiatric institutions and foster care at an early age. Neither sister learned their father’s native language although [...]

Adelaida “Ady” Rios and Octavio Mendoza-Rios

Imagine being born into a world full of love and joy. The family cradling you and telling you how beautiful you are. Telling you how happy they are that you are here. That was not the scenario Adelaida “Ady” Rios was born into. Though she was as precious as any other newborn, her arrival ushered in decades of abuse because of the circumstances into which she was born. She would endure a childhood filled with insults and negativity. Her only bright lights were an aunt who showed her love and comfort, and a father who continued to show he cared for her even through difficult times. Ady was born in Redwood City and from birth spent time traveling back and [...]

Jean Black

Jean Black was raised in the East Bay cities of Oakland and San Leandro. From an early age she was aware of the imbalance of power between instructors and students. She realized the power educators had in supporting or derailing a student’s confidence and recalls encounters with teachers in the third grade leaving her with the thought: “I can do this better.” Today she uses that insight to relate to youth, encouraging them to meet challenges with determination and a plan of action. Believing in a relationship with the Most High who supports her and keeps her vision sharp through challenges, Jean says nothing can stop her if that relationship remains strong and vibrant. She uses faith and prayer to [...]

Tyler Bennett

Tyler Bennett is a cis-gendered gay man and Berkeley City College (BCC) student transferring to UC Berkeley, Fall 2021, majoring in Social Welfare/Public Health. Tyler grew up in two northeast Ohio counties spending formative years at the edge of Appalachia and adolescence in a “football” town. His personal struggles throughout school provided the impetus for his desire to help others face their own challenges while holding positions at Alameda County Behavioral Health (ACBH). As a youth, intergenerational and personal family trauma created a difficult home environment for Tyler. Increased instability, discovery of his queer identity, and lack of social support left him with internalized feelings of responsibility for events outside his control. Emergence into adulthood and his desire for a [...]

Yuan-Yuan Lo (Yona)

I'm always grateful for a lot of people who help and accompany me to get through the challenges in my life. As an international student who had mild autism during childhood, I can relate to people's feelings of suffering depression and mental stress. But thanks to my family and friends, especially my parents, who never give up on me and keep encouraging me, I have the courage to rise each time when I fall. And that became the reason that makes me choose to major in Psychology and work as an ambassador in the college's student health center; I want to share the love that I have been receiving. And now I am so glad that I can be part [...]

Shabana Ali

A solid internship can be a major turning point for a student’s career journey. Shabana Ali, age 23, knows this well. She is grateful to have experienced that kind of internship at Alameda County Behavioral Health (ACBH) in summer 2019. “I really liked it because it was different than some of the other internships that I've had in the past,” said Shabana, a senior majoring in public health at CSU East Bay. Shabana’s big summer assignment was to create online career surveys for high school and undergraduate college students who have participated in one of Behavioral Health Care’s career exploration activities or internships within the past five years “The surveys asked them what their interests were, if they were still [...]

Monica Pham

An internship with Alameda County Behavioral Healthcare Services (ACBHCS) was more than a résumé boost. “It was a life-changing experience!” she said. In the summer of 2018, Monica was entering her senior year at Skyline High School in Oakland when she took on the five-week paid summer internship. She learned professional skills such as creating spreadsheets and Microsoft Word documents, and researching grants. Plus the program taught interns how to help other students. “I got certified for Youth Mental Health First Aid, which is pretty amazing,” she said. “I feel like that should be offered in schools.” The program connected interns with local community based organizations that offer mental health wellness services to clients in at-risk populations. “Youth Uprising was [...]

Elaine Peng

Elaine Peng is on a mission to help the Chinese community. “It’s time to get people to open up and talk about mental health,” says Peng, president of the Mental Health Association for Chinese Communities. Her passion for mental health advocacy comes from her own life. Peng was happily married, teaching Chinese, and raising her wonderful daughter, when her husband, who was only 41, died from alcoholism. Not long after, her daughter began showing symptoms of bipolar disorder. The trauma of her husband’s death and her daughter’s issues brought Peng down. She became severely depressed. After speaking with a doctor she learned her husband probably also had bipolar disorder, but self-medicated with alcohol. “I didn’t have the right education about [...]

Markeeta Parker

Young adulthood can be challenging, especially if you lack support while dealing with a mental health issue. Markeeta Parker, 31, recalls being a TAY, or transitional age youth, looking for help. “When Markeeta became a TAY, she was afraid of change,” Parker says of her former self. “She stayed in the same home, where she dealt with a lot of trauma and was afraid to leave. And she didn’t stand up for herself. She was afraid of hurting other people with the truth.” Parker utilized Stars Community Services, which provides mental health services to youth and families. There she learned more about Alameda County Behavioral Health (ACBH) for youth and young adults. The treatment services at Stars helped her become [...]

Michelle Mateo

“If anybody tells you get to over it, remember you’ve got to get through it, “advises peer specialist Michelle Mateo. Mateo, 49, has gone through a lot, which she believes led to her battling depression and alcoholism. She was two when her mother, a military nurse, died by suicide in their San Francisco home. Mateo’s mother was Irish-American. She never knew her African-American father. A nearby Puerto Rican family adopted Mateo. “It was a blessing, because it was multicultural with lots of kids,” she recalls. Mateo’s mother told her not to disclose she was adopted, to protect her from explaining her painful story. Keeping her ethnicities a secret, along with not knowing more about her birth parents and black heritage, [...]

Ashley King

Ashley King, recently interned at Alameda County Eden Children’s Services, was a recipient of Alameda County Behavioral Health’s (ACBH) Graduate Intern Stipend Program. The stipend program provides financial incentive to eligible students to build a diverse behavioral healthcare workforce. This program is funded by the Mental Health Services Act. King is one of the hard-working awardees for the 2015/2016 school year. Here, she shares some of her story of how she decided to pursue a career in a much-needed area of behavioral health. For five years, Ashley King was a 7th grade science teacher in East Oakland. “I had wonderful students who needed more services and care than I could provide as a teacher with 30-35 children in a classroom,” [...]

Darren Linzie

Darren Linzie’s smile is as vibrant as the comic books he creates. Linzie, 47, has been drawing since the age of two. Drawing comics is one of his passions, but it also helps with his mental health. “The cartoons put me at ease,” he explains. Like comic books heroes, Linzie has gone through his own journey of hardship and triumph. He began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia at 19. Around that time, he ran into a childhood bully at a Jack-In-The Box. He beat up Linzie and agitated him in elementary school. Linzie fled across the street after they recognized each other. “I shriveled down in a ball and had a nervous breakdown,” he recalls. “That was my first breakdown. I [...]

Peers: Transforming Hurt to Help

Consumers, individuals with mental health and substance use conditions, work as peer counselors in Alameda County. They are an essential resource for recovery and work with clients to help them develop new meaning and purpose for their lives. The journey of mental health recovery is a deeply personal and unique process. Peer counselors share how they improve their health and wellness and support others to live a self-directed life. How did you get started in this work? Nick Hecht, Intern at BestNow “I have been greatly helped by the mental health system. I wanted to be a part of that system. I feel empowered knowing I help others.” What inspired [...]

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