Who The Folk?! Sarah McVicar

Sarah McVicar, who besides being a graduate student at Metro State in St. Paul, has become incredibly active at Mount Zion Temple with their Mental Health Task Force. As we wrap Jewish Disabilities Awareness Acceptance and Inclusion month, Sarah talks about what Mount Zion focused on this year, how to carry that work through the rest of the year, and how the struggles she has overcome are helping her focus on her future career, in this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

New for this year: You can read a lot of the interview below, but for the full interview, please listen or subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, with more to come later soon. Please subscribe, rate, and review. And of course, if you have suggestions of others who would be great subjects, let us know!

Tell us a little bit about Mount Zion has been doing this month to use its platform to help educate and inform about J-DAIM?

I have been part of Mount Zion’s mental health task force, which is a kind of a subgroup of a larger accessibility and inclusion committee at Mount Zion and so last year. Jewish Disability Awareness Acceptance and Inclusion month has been around since about 2008 or 2009. Last year at Mount Zion we focused on mental health for the month of February. This year, Mount Zion is focusing somewhat on autism spectrum disorders.

How do you take the work that the mental health task force has done take it beyond February?

That’s actually something we’ve been thinking about a lot. Obviously, if you’re living with a mental health disorder or something else you know that doesn’t disappear after February so how can we make ourselves more visible and more of a resource that the rest of the year? That’s something that we really have been working on. I am also a representative on a Twin Cities committee of members of different congregations who are working on accessibility and inclusion work. We talk about ideas and our challenge of how we would like to move forward but I think that’s really an ongoing struggle.

What led you to the mental health task force in the first place?

I moved here from New Hampshire at the end of 2014, and Mount Zion is actually the first congregation that I’ve been a member of. The committee chair was very involved in accessibility inclusion work and she said they were thinking of creating a mental health task force and she asked if I would like to be part. Then through that work, I got involved in the larger accessibility and inclusion work and the Twin Cities-wide committee. It’s very personal to me: I myself am a person in recovery from co-occurring disorders, mental health disorder, and substance use disorder, so those are things that are very close to my heart.

How do you do this work being in recovery but also not getting overwhelmed by the helping of other people?

I think that’s an ongoing challenge. Right now I am at Metro State in a master’s program studying co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders recovery counseling is the name of the degree so that also means that I’ll be eligible for licensure as a mental health counselor and substance use disorder counselor. We do talk a lot about compassion fatigue, and about the importance of self-care. I think a lot of people who are drawn to helping professions maybe are not used to so much thinking about taking care of themselves so it’s challenging. I think it’s a matter of balance, and balance is something I’m always working on but it’s not one of my strong suits.

What brought you here from New Hampshire?

I originally came to the Twin Cities because that was at the time when I was looking into treatments for substance use disorder, and Hazelden came up. My parents and I were reading about the Twin Cities, and they have a reputation for having a large recovery community. I always said I would go back to New Hampshire and I have not made it back yet four years later.

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