In Memory of Darby Penney

(By Amanda Saake, Director of the OMH Office of Consumer Affairs)

Please join NYS Office of Mental Health and the Office of Consumer Affairs in sadly acknowledging the passing of Darby Penney, a longtime activist in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric histories. 

(Photo Credit: Mad in America)

Darby led studies and projects at the national, state, and local levels, encompassing subjects such as peer support, trauma-informed practices, and homelessness.

For a decade, Darby served as the first Director of Recipient Affairs at the New York State Office of Mental Health, where she brought the perspectives of people with psychiatric histories into all aspects of policymaking, program development, and evaluation.  She was a fierce advocate for mental health equity, teaching, supporting, researching, effecting both the mental health systems and the lives of people directly affected by these systems. She will be greatly missed by friends and family, as well as, the world of those who have worked shoulder to shoulder with her to create equity, transparency, and alignment with the values of authentic peer support.

Here is a link to Darby’s obituary

The National Association of Rights, Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) will be holding a Memorial for Darby at 2:00 pm Eastern on November 19, 2021. More Information.

(Addition on December 22, 2021: A Tribute to Darby in the New York Times.)

October 10 Is World Mental Health Day

October 10 Is World Mental Health Day (Courtesy The Key Update)

The World Health Organization’s theme for World Mental Health Day 2021 (October 10) is “Mental health care for all: let’s make it a reality.”

  • To read more about the WHO’s suggestions, click here.
  • For WikiHow’s ideas about how to celebrate World Mental Health Day, click here.
  • For the WHO’s 296-page “Guidance on Community Mental Health Services: Promoting Person-centered and Rights-based Approaches” (courtesy of Janet Paleo), published in the September 2021 Key Update, click here.
  • For a WHO press release–“New WHO Guidance Seeks to Put an End to Human Rights Violations in Mental Health Care,” from the July Key Update, click here.
  • For “Former UN Special Rapporteur Denounces ‘Global Psychiatry’s Crisis of Values,’” from the June 2021 Key Update, click here
  • For “World Mental Health Day: Prioritize Social Justice, Not Only Access to Care,” click here.


by Howard Diamond

October 9, 2021

American baseball cancellation by COVID-19 virus.

Fall sports 2020 were unique
Fall sports 2021 are shrouded in mystique
Seasons and rules were changed often
Champions were named to make the blow soften.

Welcome everyone to Fall Sports 2021
Where there are games to be played and to be won
Whether we enjoy baseball or football
Perhaps for some it is hockey or basketball.

Now fall sports are back for all to see
Cheering for our favorite team is the way to be
Whether we watch on TV or live sitting in the stands
Staring at the ball or puck to see where it lands.

Baseball now competing in their playoff season
While basketball and hockey are in the exhibition season
Football have played a few of their games
With many players injured with a variety of pains.

Most players pushing ahead with all their might
Never give up and continue their fight
Keeping up by maintaining their paces
With blood and sweat all over their faces.

All of the schedules are very long 
Some of the teams have gone very wrong
Athletes compete for many a reason
There is hope for a better next season.


Hear Stigma, Think Recovery

October 3, 2021 by For Like Minds

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week.  You’ll be hearing a lot about stigma.  It is extremely important to know and talk about stigma.  However, we need to always remember that what it says about us is lies.
Those of us who have experienced the pain and suffering of stigma and have learned that it is full of lies must help our peers realize the same.  Since reaching recovery 3 years ago after an 18-year struggle, I’ve been speaking out about stigma to help my peers.  Part of my message is to ignore stigma, but even when in recovery it’s not always possible.  We have to work at it. I try as much as I can to focus on what I can change.  This includes self-stigma and working hard to rid myself of its influence.  But most importantly I do all that I can to thrive in recovery and strongly encourage others to believe recovery is possible.
Recovery is a game-changer for mental illness.  Recovery is possible for the majority of us, but too few know it.  We are unlikely to eradicate stigma in the foreseeable future.  But the real possibility of recovery can fill us with hope now.  You and our peers may be suffering right now.  We all need hope.  Seeing a relatable example of recovery can spark the tiniest flicker of hope that can ignite our recovery journey in an instant. We can’t wait on society to shed its stigmas.  Recovery is possible now.  And recovery is the best defense against stigma. 

(Continue to Read)

Unapologetically Black Unicorns features Dr. Jonathan P. Edwards

“The Greatest Form of Support is Being Heard” with Dr. Jonathan P. Edwards

October 2, 2021

Dr. Jonathan P. Edwards (he/him) has worked as a public health professional for more than 25 years, serves as adjunct faculty at Columbia School of Social Work, is an emerging researcher, plays a major role nationally in peer support workforce development and as a Board Member of National Association of Peer Supporters and he is an Unapologetically Black Unicorn. Dr. Edwards shares his personal story including his upbringing and his recovery journey. They talk about Dr. Edwards working in both social work and peer support, advancing leadership for people of color, and the impact of the self-help tools and resources on his personal growth.

(To Listen or Learn More)

About Unapologetically Black Unicorns

Have you ever chatted with an Unapologetically Black Unicorn- someone who symbolizes freedom, power, strength and is a true force of nature and thought, ‘WOW people need to hear this’? Now you can and learn how to be a U.B.U. too! Join the weekly conversation with host Keris Jän Myrick, an unapologetically Black unicorn in their own right, and nationally recognized mental health advocate chatting with amazing U.B.U. folk who are advancing all things mental health, racial justice, and anything cool to enhance human existence.

Words of Wellness

October 1, 2021

Words of Wellness is published monthly by Collaborative Support Partners of New Jersey, co-edited by Peggy Swarbrick and Pat Nemec.

Celebrate Every Day in October!

National Go On A Field Trip Month

Go somewhere local or take a virtual trip to a museum or national park. Have a conversation about where you have gone, where you would like to go, and why you’d want to go there.

Positive Attitude Month

Draw a “mood feeling” picture. Describe your own drawing to a group, then discuss how everyone feels during specific situations.

Celebrate for a whole week!

The week of October 3-9 is Get Organized Week as well as International Postcard Week and National Carry A Tune Week.

Celebrate for a day!

  • Oct. 1  World Smile Day
  • Oct. 2  World Card Making Day
  • Oct. 5  National Do Something Nice Day
  • Oct. 6  National Pumpkin Seed Day
  • Oct. 7  You Matter To Me Day
  • Oct. 9  Universal Music Day
  • Oct. 31  National Knock-Knock Jokes Day

National Oatmeal Day

On October 29th, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating National Oatmeal Day! Oatmeal is a healthy grain with lots of soluble fiber, making it a great choice for breakfast or even a snack! There are many other ways to enjoy oats, including muesli, oatmeal muffins, overnight oatmeal, and oatmeal cookies.

Gluten-free? No problem—just look for oats that are marked as gluten-free, to ensure they are handled properly when processed and tested.

(For more, click here)

©2020 Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey, Inc. | 11 Spring Street, Freehold, NJ |

SAMHSA to Launch New “Office of Recovery” to Expand Its Commitment to Recovery for All Americans

September 30, 2021 (Courtesy NYAPRS E-News)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is launching an Office of Recovery, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, to advance the agency’s commitment to, and support of, recovery for all Americans. September marks National Recovery Month, and in organizing this new office, SAMHSA will now have a dedicated team with a deep understanding of recovery to promote policies, programs and services to those in or seeking recovery.

“We have identified recovery as a crosscutting principle throughout SAMHSA’s policies and programs,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “In standing up this new office, SAMHSA is committed to growing and expanding recovery support services nationwide.”

Recovery is enhanced by peer-delivered services. These peer support services have proven to be effective as the support, outreach and engagement with new networks help sustain recovery over the long term.

Peer services are critical, given the significant workforce shortages in behavioral health. SAMHSA’s new Office of Recovery will promote the involvement of people with lived experience throughout agency and stakeholder activities, foster relationships with internal and external organizations in the mental health and addiction recovery fields and identify health disparities in high-risk and vulnerable populations to ensure equity for support services across the Nation.

“SAMHSA believes in recovery and recognizes the importance of including families, loved ones and allies,” said Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon. “If people are struggling, they don’t need to struggle alone – services and supports are available across the country, which can help people find long-term recovery.”

SAMHSA has a long history of advancing Recovery Support dating back to the 1980s with the Community Support Program and the 1990s, when the first Recovery Community Support Programs were funded. SAMHSA defines recovery as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential.

People searching for treatment for mental or substance use disorders can find treatment by visiting or by calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown (MBB)

September 28, 2021

From well known actress to mental health advocate to game show host. Pictured here, Mayim Bialik during her weekly podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown.

Mayim Bialik seeks to dispel myths and misunderstandings about mental health. While Dr. Bialik holds a PhD in Neuroscience, she is not a medical doctor and can not diagnose, provide treatment, or make suggestions which prevent disease. MBB is for entertainment, education, and informational purposes only. If you are experiencing a medical issue, please seek medical help from a licensed professional.

From 1991 to 1995, Mayim Bialik played the title character of the NBC sitcom Blossom. From 2010 to 2019, she played neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. For the latter role, Bialik was nominated four times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series[1] and won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2017.

In August 2021, it was announced that Bialik will host the primetime version of Jeopardy!. After Mike Richards stepped down from hosting the syndicated version of the show later that month, Bialik started concurrently hosting that version as well (sharing duties with Ken Jennings).

Mayim remains dedicated to the weekly podcast, which has featured guests such as: Jaleel White, Salmon Khan, Alison Desire, Lamorne Morris, Jackson Galaxy, Anthony Green, Jalen Rose, Alan Gordon, David Archuleta, Matthew McConaughey, Rainn Wilson, Timber Hawkeye, Kevin Sussman, Bobby Moynihan, Dan Matthews, Wil Wheaton, and Kunal Nayyar. For a short introduction to her podcast:

When “Not Guilty” is a Life Sentence

By Mac McClellan; New York Times (courtesy The Key Update)

September 27, 2017

Despite Ann’s determination to betray no emotion, a drop of sweat rolled down her temple as a guard painstakingly examined her lunch items. That Sunday morning, she had taken two buses, two trains and a shuttle to get from her home to the New York state psychiatric facility where her son is confined. Frustrated, she pushed back a little, but just a little, when the guard took away two sealed bottles of fruit-flavored water, a special treat that Ann had made an extra stop to buy. She watched as he held them up to examine them and concluded that they must contain caffeine — which is not allowed — because they did not read, “Does not contain caffeine.”

“They’re testing you,” she said to her son, James, after she was finally cleared, metal-detected and led upstairs to the visiting room, a spare, linoleum-floored space inside the hospital’s high-security building. Ann, who asked that her nickname and her son’s middle name be used to protect their privacy, usually comes to see James three times a week. Obstacles like these are routine. James, a middle-aged white man with thinning hair and a thickening waistline, listened to her complaints in a routine way, too, glancing up from the newspaper his mother had brought, the two of them sitting at a table, the same arch in their brown eyebrows, eating homemade coleslaw and sandwiches. They’ve been doing this a long time.

(Read More)

Autumn or Fall


September 25, 2021

person wearing black leather boots
Photo by lilartsy on

Is it autumn already? As Brian Hyland began his song, “Tho we gotta say goodbye for the summer” but it will return again in nine months. However, the seasons are moving and some baseball teams are getting ready for the playoffs and American Professional Football started last month. Soon the leaves on the trees will come out in different colors and eventually fall to the ground. Not long from now, snow will be on the streets. Of course, let us not rush it, because the white stuff comes quickly enough. Looking at the future one day at a time might be a better way, since that is what happens whether we like it or not. For summer 2021 and as in the above-mentioned song concludes with, “Sealed With a Kiss”. 

Hey everyone! Has anyone noticed, The Academy of Peer Services website has a modern new and improved look? Let’s hope and I hope that these revisions are for the better. “She’s got the look” lyrics are used several times in the 1988 song by the Swedish pop duo, Roxette. Maybe the Academy of Peer Services also has the look. 

By the day this is published, all the kinks will be worked out and people are using the new and improved site. Of course, I am not talking about the rock group, “The Kinks”, but the issues with the coursework classes. “Try to remember the kind of September,” from the initial song in the longest running off-broadway musical comedy called The Fantasticks, portrays the reflecting on the end of summer, very well.  

During the middle of September, New York Peer Specialists trek upstate to a three-day conference to learn about changes and fortify their knowledge of the Mental Health System. Over the last two years, this conference was done virtually. Way back in the year 1597, Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “Knowledge is Power”. Almost three centuries later, British Politician Lord Acton stated, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

These statements are just for everyone to ponder, or think about, perhaps, not. Enough of this heavy stuff. 

Peer Specialists just like most people want to learn and to be trained for something. At the Academy of Peer Services, there are a multitude of on-line classes that can be taken to gain insight on what and how one becomes a New York State Certified Peer Specialist. Since last November, I have been a Certified Peer Specialist. Each term affords me and all of the Peers out there, the opportunity to take new and exciting courses. A commercial once said, “Try it, you’ll like it”.  

One of the best parts of doing the courses at the Academy is completing each of them at your own pace. Like  Fleetwood Mac sang, “Go your own way”. Also, Burger King’s slogan was, “Have it your way”. Now the saying is,  “Be your way”. Everything happens in its own time and we cannot rush it. Now we have another change of season, whether we like it or not. 

Remember, always be grateful for what we have now, because we cannot alter what is going to happen and try to remain positive as much as one can. Yes, I am aware that this is not always easy, especially for me. Most of the time, I am focusing on the present and what I can do, not my past negativity nor what I did not do nor I am projecting my future on what I am about to do. I say, “Let your future be your present because you cannot modify any of your past”. Of course, that does mean, I think about my significant other Maureen. I love you, I miss you and I still wish you were here. Happy Autumn. See you in the NewsBlogs.

Howard Diamond, is a New York State Certified Peer Specialist from Long Island