“I am so satisfied when I hear a parent thank me for listening, for validating their frustrations. Many times, I am the first person who gets the situation they are experiencing with their children.”
An advocate, collaborator, and activist, Mark Solomons joined the staff of Community Action Marin in February 2019. With over 25 years of experience in the elder care field, Mark studied Politics at UC Santa Cruz, Theater at SF State, and Social Work at Cal State East Bay and has always been passionate about promoting social change. Wearing many hats at the agency, Mark is an integral team member providing support in areas from Rental Assistance to Spanish Warmline and Census Line support, but his desire to have impact on mental health work is what brought him to the agency.
Breaking the stigma that’s associated with mental health has been a key driver in Mark’s work and one that he had to confront himself. As a volunteer member of Congregation Rodef Sholom’s REAL Mental Health Initiative, he shared with a presenter at an event that he was not open about his mental health history with colleagues at a non-profit social service agency for fear of judgment. “Stigma is real,” he acknowledged. But soon afterwards, Mark read of an opening for a Family Partner position and eagerly looked forward to combining his personal history as a mental health patient and consumer with his work as an advocate to this new role at Community Action Marin.
“I am blessed to blend my professional experience with my personal experience and provide direct assistance to families experiencing mental health crises,” Mark says, speaking with a sense of fulfillment about his interactions with parents who struggle with the difficulties and challenges of finding the care they need for their loved ones. “I am so satisfied when I hear a parent thank me for listening, for validating their frustrations. Many times, I am the first person who gets the situation they are experiencing with their children.”
Mark points out that one of the highlights of his position is being part of the diverse and tight-knit Family Partner Team. “This is the first time in my career that I have worked closely with such a racially diverse team. Our weekly staff meetings allow us to model the listening we expect to offer our clients.” This practice translates well in the field and as a result of the team’s dedicated outreach, “families understand that they are not alone in their struggles. We effectively help reduce mental health stigma in the community,” explains Mark.
In addition to his role as Family Partner, Mark also answers the Spanish Warmline twice a week to assist Spanish speakers facing emotional challenges. He also supports the Safety Net team gathering paperwork for Rental Assistance applications, helping families receive much needed assistance during this pandemic. Working closely with his team members, Chris and Laurel, he is consistently amazed at the quick turnaround for a family to receive support, which can be a critical factor in this challenging time.
Mark will soon be staffing the new Census Line to assist anyone who needs help completing the census survey as he wants “to assure ALL residents in Marin County participate in the census and be counted.” In the future, Mark looks forward to advocating “for increased short-term and long-term housing for those with mental health issues.”