Rachel T. Schromen currently serves on Guild’s Board of Directors. Ms. Schromen is an estate planning and elder law attorney, and owner of Schromen Law, LLC in St. Paul, MN. She has been named one of the Top 3 Best Rated Estate Planning Attorneys in St. Paul, and was recently recognized as a Super Lawyer Rising Star – a designation received by no more than 2.5% of attorneys in Minnesota.
In early 2016, I was a recent law school graduate who had just launched my solo legal practice and co-founded a legal nonprofit organization. I was working 70+ hours a week and not yet making a profit in my new business venture. Around this time, an Ambassador visited a networking meeting I was at on behalf of Guild and invited us to learn more as a “Get to Know Guild” informative session. I accepted his invitation and after attending the session, I knew I needed to get involved as a volunteer.
I remember a colleague expressing surprise that I was stepping up to volunteer at a time that I was so overwhelmed and, frankly, running on fumes. They questioned if it was the right timing to me to get involved with a new organization in this capacity. The decision was not just an intellectual one for me – it was personal.
Intellectually, it was obvious to me that the cause was worthy of support, and that the work Guild was doing was invaluable. I had heard from clients of Guild and, like so many are, I was moved to tears … tears of empathy for and awe of the clients speaking, and tears of gratitude for Guild, an organization that I was learning had supported the life-changing events of these clients sharing their stories. However, a far more personal chord was struck. I could relate and identify with the stories being told. I did not simply want to support Guild, I wanted to become a part of its community.
Growing up, I watched my father (a Vietnam Veteran) suffer from undiagnosed and untreated severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. I was raised with a strong work ethic and high drive to succeed, which oftentimes meant pushing feelings of stress, overwhelm, or exhaustion down – rather than addressing them. As I embarked on a legal education without the ideal tools to manage my mental health, or a willingness to reach out for help, I found myself turning to alcohol and experiencing intense anxiety which I tried to manage myself. In 2012, my father and I found recovery from substance use disorder the same summer, and my own journey into self-care began.
As I began to learn tools to care for my mental health, I was emerging into an intense and high-drive profession. While there is a strong campaign growing in the Twin Cities legal community to raise awareness of mental health, and stress the importance of managing and addressing it, it can still be hard to combine those messages with the nature of the profession. An internal dialogue that I should be able to figure things out myself made the process even more challenging.
I share my story because to believe that mental illness is truly a disease that can impact anyone, is to recognize the struggles in ourselves – to truly accept that mental illness does not discriminate and can impact anyone, regardless of education, profession, or life experience. To believe that mental health, like physical health, is something that must be cared for is to realize that we can benefit from being a part of organizations and communities that embrace this messaging.
By becoming involved with Guild, I have been given the opportunity to give back (with my time and money) to a cause and mission that I passionately believe in. I have been able to see the impact Guild has on the individuals it serves, and the Twin Cities community at large. But further than that, I have personally benefited from becoming a part of the Guild community. I have become part of a community of friends, colleagues, and mentors who support each other in caring for their own mental health, while working to break the stigma that keeps so many people within arm’s reach of getting the support and help they need and deserve.
Since 2016, I have served as an Ambassador for Guild, sponsored fundraisers, attended fundraisers, and I currently serve on the Board of Directors. There are so many ways to begin getting involved with Guild, and many ways to expand and grow your current involvement. My involvement with Guild has been an incredibly rewarding experience – not only in terms of the impact I can see my involvement has had, but also in terms of my own mental health and well-being.