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A Day in the Life of a Mental Health Grant Writer

Every morning, I drive down a street in a not-so-nice neighborhood populated with people walking its sidewalks who aren't popular…homeless, poor, unemployed, on drugs, some “out of their minds.”


My first day as a grant writer for the local mental health authority went like this: as I'm heading down the sidewalk to get my TB test read at our medical clinic, a tall agitated woman strides toward me, dumps her plastic bag of clothes around my feet, and begins to cuss me out.

What did I get myself into?!

I got into the mental health field, not so much by choice, but by opportunity. A full-time grant writer position at a nonprofit is rare. Grant writing is a second career for me, after more than two decades as a writer/educator in higher education. I knew how to tell a story, but not this particular story.

This story is complex and stigmatized.

1 in 5 (20%) American adults experience a mental health issue, and 1 in 10 (10%) young people experience a period of major depression ( 2018).

Applying these statistics to our county's 361,000 residents, this translates to 72,000 adults and 36,000 youth in Nueces County dealing with mental health issues.

Sadly, a consequence of untreated mental health issues and depression is suicide. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States ( 2018). In Texas, the suicide rate is 11.9 per 100,000, while the suicide rate in Nueces County is higher at 12.8 per 100,000 (Suicide in Texas, UT System Office of Health Affairs, 2015).

The reality is no one wants to talk about it.

My 3-second elevator speech is this: our services are key to unlocking the door to mental health.

Nueces Center for Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities (NCMHID) operates 9 facilities, runs 30+ programs, and serves 11,600 residents annually in 3 major treatment areas: adult mental health; youth mental health; and intellectual disabilities.
The people at NCMHID are working with their individual hearts to collectively help others' minds. And it's not because of the fantastic pay or fancy facilities.
Nearly a year later, I have finally earned the trust of the young man with Down Syndrome who empties my office trash can each day at noon…he smiled at me for the first time.
That felt almost as good as landing a grant.
Rachel B. Perkes is the grant writer for NCMHID in Corpus Christi, TX.