Putting the focus on issues of mental health in Coos Bay

From the Coos Bay World, May 20 2014

She said she lost her job because of an illness that millions of people battle every day.

Pamela Rangel, a Navy veteran, said she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder in 2002. She also was told she had bi-polar disorder in 2013.

Pamela Rangel leads a group discussion about how to change unwanted behaviors at SHAMA House, a non-profit in North Bend that offers peer support classes for adults with mental illness.

Pamela Rangel leads a group discussion about how to change unwanted behaviors at SHAMA House, a non-profit in North Bend that offers peer support classes for adults with mental illness.

Dealing with her illnesses cost her job at North Bend School District, she said.

“I don’t think they were used to working with someone with so many problems,” Rangel said.

Adding to the complications, she had her gall bladder removed and gastric bypass surgery, due to her high risk of esophageal cancer. The procedures make it difficult for her to process food and medicine.

“It’s a frustrating process,” Rangel said.

Finding the right combination of drugs and counseling plagues many. It’s part of why many organizations, including Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Health, declared May as Mental Health Month. They also want to break the stigma that may be attached to mental illness.

After losing her job, Rangel had to apply for Social Security. Luckily, she said she had “excellent benefits” through NBSD.

She eventually was referred to Shama House, a place for social services, where she began volunteering as a peer support coordinator. It’s a far cry from her five-year stint in the Navy and other jobs, but it works for now.

“This has been my Godsend,” Rangel said.

She’s not able to work eight-hour days because her “anxiety gets too high,” so she works part-time for now. She recently was chosen to be a representative at the Oregon supported employment peer collaborative in Astoria. She will go to other peer-run organizations to provide support for those who need it, she said.

Rangel said doctors weren’t sure how to help her, even though it’d been years since her first diagnosis.

“Which do you treat first?” she asked. “Throwing gastric bypass on top of it really complicated things.”

She said her two kids, who were in junior high and high school when she was first diagnosed, were “not ones to ask a lot of questions,” so she didn’t have to explain herself to them at first. But, she said it still was difficult.

“It was a really rough period. It was hard on everyone,” Rangel said.

She said she talked herself into working.

“I make myself go to work,” Rangel said. “I have to make myself do it.”