For Yvonne Green, a resident of San Francisco’s Eastern Bayview/Alice Griffith neighborhood, embracing a healthy lifestyle was more about reducing stress than reducing her waistline. After years of drug and alcohol abuse, Yvonne was in recovery when she continued to experience great loss and traumatic events, slowing her progress toward overall health and success.
Her brother, with whom she was close, died in prison under suspicious circumstances. The stress of his loss and the ongoing investigation was a source of constant pain for Yvonne. She would watch similar stories on the news and feel like she was grieving again and again.
“When I see stuff on TV, it brings up a whole range of feelings. I’m living paycheck to paycheck… plus, just living in this neighborhood is stressful. It’s hard.”
Seeing this potential threat to her well-being, case managers at Urban Strategies urged her to join the program: With Every Heartbeat is Life (WEHL). The program centers on goal-setting and education to help residents improve their knowledge of healthy behaviors. She learned how to monitor her health, make dietary changes, and exercise regularly in order to help her keep her stress levels down.
Perhaps the biggest help came in the form of a referral from her Urban Strategies’ case manager to a mental health counselor. In many poor communities, seeking mental health support is seen as an act of weakness. But Yvonne overcame this stigmatization and sought help.
“It helped to talk to somebody. I know that I need to deal with things hands-on and not use. I know that is not going to bring him back. It would only hurt my kids and my grandkids and not solve anything.”
Yvonne helps care for her grandkids and her other brother, who has disabilities. She’s currently working at Target and feeling hopeful about changes in the neighborhood, and within herself. She still sees her therapist and keeps up with exercise – taking Zumba workout/dance classes a few times a week. And it helps; she describes herself as more stable.
“My thinking is much clearer since I’ve been eating right and taking care of myself. Even though sometimes I cry and feel like I want to give up – I can’t. I just put my boots on and go do what I’ve got to do. It’s good.”