BY JON CRONIN
Last week, as a part of Thrive NYC, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, in an effort to bring mental health issues to the forefront of the five boroughs, held a discussion at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council on better and easier access to mental health services in the city.
Thrive NYC, which was spearheaded by the City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray, “Not every mayor has someone to help him with good ideas and she does it for free,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale).
“Almost everyone in New York City has experienced some kind of trauma or stress. It is important to have outlets and programs that Thrive NYC is offering,” she said.
Buery noted that one in five adults in New York experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime. “We are all afflicted by mental illness,” he said, “It’s a public health crisis.”
He stated that 25 percent of young people report feeling sad or hopeless and that eight percent of high school students have reported attempting suicide. “These are really staggering figures,” he said. Buery noted that the city is pledging $850 million over the next four years as part of the Thrive NYC’s 54 initiatives that will combat the public health crisis of mental illness.
“There is a still a stigma surrounding it that people don’t feel comfortable talking about,” noted Buery. He added that one of the missions of this program is change the way people think about mental illness, because currently it is not treated like the usual physical illnesses and it should be.
Buery believes that we need to create a culture where there is no shame in getting treatment.
Cory, a member of the Youth Council’s young adult mentorship program, asked if there are programs for homeless who have issues with mental illness. Buery said that not many homeless have mental illness issues, “Those who are homeless are extremely vulnerable.” He said Made a historic commitment to building support housing with mental health and counseling servicing built in. “That’s long term,” In the short term, home staff, go out in bock by block to find out what they need, still resistant, build a relationship.
Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5, said, in his position, he doesn’t deal with social services as much as he would like to. He noted that he would love to go to a mental health training session provided by the city. Giordano agreed with Buery and stated, “You’re on the mark with ‘deputizing’ [in mental health care] as many people as possible.”
Giordano brought to light the issue that with Glendale Human Services, which is the one of the few mental health care services in the area, “If you were to miss an appointment, you may have to wait a month or longer.” He also inquired with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to find out what is the availability of mental health care versus the need. “They admitted there is a big gap,” he said.
Buery said he “Would encourage you to undergo mental health training,” and noted if it takes too long to get help many people won’t get. “I don’t want to pretend we can solve these issues overnight,” said Buery. He said one of their programs, Connections to Care, is a partnership with private philanthropist and the Federal Corporation of National Community Service in which they pair mental health counseling with after school programs and community services because people may not seek mental health care on their own but do go to these local services. He added that they are also pairing mental health counselors with primary care physician offices to close that one stop gap.
Robert Albino, an after-school director at Ridgewood Youth Council, said can he alert someone else other than EMS during a mental health crisis, which would bring an ambulance, because, he believes, it may deter young people from coming forward with the mental health issues.
Beury said, “In a true emergency you need the ambulance.”
At the Thrive NYC website they note, “Some countries are beginning to measure “well-being” and the position attributes of mental health. Similarly, it would be useful to capture not just neighborhood effects that pose threats to mental health, but also positive attributes that contribute to the resiliency of individuals and communities. Better data about both mental health and mental illness will help us make better decisions and smarter choices.”
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin