News

Partner Spotlight: Kathy Rogers

June 2021

Dealing with the pandemic over the past year hasn't been easy.  In fact, for many it has been a profound struggle.  Stressors such as social distancing, fear of COVID-19 infections, loss of family members/friends and rethinking family life, school and business were enough to have anyone reach out for professional help.  Kathy Rogers, Executive Director at Mental Health America of Central Carolinas (MHA), understands these challenges all too well and was able to provide some insight and advice surrounding mental health, how she and her organization managed the pandemic, and how she promotes mental wellness within the walls of MHA as well as her personal life.   

A visionary and community advocate with over 20 years of ED experience, Rogers began her journey with MHA in 2017 after PMA conducted an executive director search for the organization.  Her role includes everything from overseeing the staff to strategic planning and preparing budgets.  She is very passionate about the organization's mission to provide help, offer hope and promote mental wellness through advocacy, education and prevention.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior and are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Historically, individuals dealing with mental illness were placed in asylums and treated very poorly.  Today, Rogers acknowledges that our society has come a long way in the way mental illness is viewed, but we still have a long way to go.  "One in five will be diagnosed with a mental health challenge during their lifetime.  They may be afraid to talk about their diagnosis due to stigma and discrimination that still exists around mental health and how we treat it," she says.  With this awareness, MHA's vision is to not only reduce the stigma that exists around mental health, but eliminate it.  To support their endeavors, MHA recently held their 7th annual Wake Up for Wellness Breakfast, a signature fundraising event designed to inspire, educate and reduce the stigma of talking about and seeking help for mental health issues.  

The pandemic unleashed many challenges for individuals and businesses.  Like most organizations, MHA employees made the work from home transition.  Fortunately, they had already converted to a cloud-based system allowing staff to manage phone calls, data and information as if they were still in the building.  The education team quickly pivoted to virtual suicide prevention classes and later began teaching online Mental Health First Aid classes.  It was during this time that Rogers began producing the bi-weekly show, "Mental Health Matters." This free, 30-minute virtual event was designed to promote mental wellness and awareness and provided a platform for her and her guests to discuss timely mental health topics, sharing messages of help, hope and recovery.

Rogers has been a long-time advocate for self-care.  Turning to physical activity for an outlet, she keeps a mat in her office for a Pilates practice that was inspired by her daughter.  She also takes walks and bikes.  During the pandemic, Rogers was very cognizant of the fact that many people were working more hours from home, not less.  "There was no separation from the workplace and home.  There was no escape," she said.   Rogers models the idea that employees need to turn work off when it's time - turn the phone off - don't check emails.  "When I was working from home, at the end of every day, I'd turn off my laptop.  I'd put it in my laptop bag, clean everything up and put it away.  My staff, who continue to work from home right now, have been encouraged to do that," she says. 

Rogers suggests that other organizations can support the mental well-being of their employees by encouraging them to practice self-care.  They can bring in resources that help employees deal with mental health issues or simply open up the conversation. MHA is currently working with many organizations to increase access to mental health screenings and supports as well as suicide prevention training.  Rogers recognizes that society is dealing with a lot right now and encourages us all to recognize the importance of mental wellness.  "During this time we really need to be helping each other and supporting each other mentally and emotionally," she says.

For more information regarding MHA's programs or to find out how you get involved, please visit https: www.mhacentralcarolinas.org.