The Stigma of Silence – Veronica Love Speaks Out
By Dziedzorm Sanaki
Veronica Love is a Denver-based therapeutic case manager who breaks the mold. Love is a therapeutic case manager at the Aurora Mental Health Center, in Aurora Colorado. She serves as a mental health consultant for various Aurora-based childcare centers and preschools in assisting them to provide children with better care and to help them become successful adults in the future. Her work is one that many overlook as being important, but it’s people like her in our community that we owe gratitude to – for taking time out to work with kids to prevent them from suffering later on in life. Mental health in our community is often looked at as an illness that is challenging to solve. But we come to an understanding that it’s a part of life and needs to be treated without a stigma being attached to it.
What are your credentials and how long have you been a therapist?
I received my Bachelors of Arts in Psychology at the University of Northern Colorado and also a Masters in Early Childhood Special Education at the University of Colorado at Denver. I will be leaving Aurora Mental Health in December. I’ve been here for 12 years, ready to get my doctorate degree in Florida; I am excited to be leaving. As sad as it’s going to be leaving here, the joyous part is that I will be moving to Florida in December.
What led you to this profession?
Well, I have always loved working with kids. When I was a very young girl, my older sister worked in childcare, so I always wanted to be a teacher. When I went to get my bachelor’s degree, I was going through the course study to get the education degree. I felt like there was more that I wanted to do, and I took a psychology course and I absolutely loved it. So I wanted to use that with kids. I went that route; I thought I wanted to work with adolescents. I actually did my internship (while getting my bachelor’s degree), at a youth detention center, which was very interesting. A lot of those kids, when they turn 18 years, they were going to be transferred to prison because they had committed some heinous crimes. But it was hard for me to be a disciplinarian to them. I wanted to support them because I felt they were so young and I felt if someone had reached them younger, then maybe their lives would have turned out different. When I graduated from college I went to work with a place called the Denver Family Crisis Center, which is a protective custody place for kids that are out of control and their parents can’t manage them anymore. Also, they bring in kids who have been removed by social services and they need somewhere protective for them to go.
What is a typical day for you in the center?
Typical day – I am not here. That’s what I love – that I don’t live in this little box. I chose an office without a window because I spend most of my time out in the community. I generally go to preschools in the morning and childcare centers, (the one I have a contract with), and I am usually there probably three days of the week. On other mornings, I am usually at other child care centers working with individual children who need support. I typically visit the childcare centers in the mornings usually, because the kids are awake, before they go to nap time. In the afternoon, I come back and do paperwork from my notes about my visits at the childcare center. Typically in the evenings I do groups here, or in-home services for families.
How would you define mental health?
When I think of mental health, I think that it kind of exists on a continuum like one’s physical health. You have people who are physically very healthy and you have some people who have a cold and they take some medicine and it goes away. We have people who are chronically ill. They have cancer or something and they are going to die. I think mental health is the same way-some of us are mentally healthy and some of us might not be doing mentally well some days because we are going through something, such as somebody died. But we can recover from it like a cold. Then you also have people that have chronic mental health problems like schizophrenia. One of our clinics serves clients that have chronic mental illness as well as a developmental disability. Some of these people are going to suffer these chronic diseases for the rest of their lives.
What are the rewards from this profession?
Well, for me, on some days it’s hard, I will leave a family’s home or a school and I am like, gosh did I make any difference? My boss, a long time ago told me, “You know Veronica, the reason why you feel that way is because you work with young kids, and a three year old can’t come up and tell you, ‘Thank you so much for that session you had with me,’ and, ‘I feel better.’” An adult can tell you that, but a kid can’t.
Some days it’s hard to tell. But when I see a family being happier, or when I see a family come in and say “I can’t go to church with my kid, I can’t take him to the store,” and a couple months later they tell me, “We went to the store, we went to church and we are making friends at church,”–that is so rewarding. It means the world to me because kids have to be able to thrive in our community; then they can grow up to be successful adults. To see things like that brings me a lot of joy and makes it worth it for me being kicked and bitten some days.
I recently had a lady call here yesterday afternoon; I worked with them probably about two years ago; a family that had a lot of issues. When she called she was just talking about everything going on and I was waiting for her to ask me, to tell me, to come back out to help us. But she didn’t do that. I asked her, “Well, what made you call today? I mean, do you need anything?” And she said “No, I was just calling to let you know what was going on in our lives.” Sometimes I leave people and think they forget me.
I recently had one little girl (I worked with her family for about four years), and when I started working with her she was about three years old. I was in the store and I didn’t see her but she saw me – and here was this little girl running up to me and she ran and jumped into my arms and I was like, Oh my God. It makes me want to cry, because her family lived in a hotel and they moved around all the time and I went out to do in-home services with them one day and they were gone from the hotel. I couldn’t find them and I lost touch with them for years, and she told me… “Ms. Veronica, I knew I would see you again.” She gave me the biggest hug – I was like wow.