Sunday New York Times Article Features Hearing Voices Network and Chacku Mathai

May 21, 2022 (Excerpts from New York Times Article by Daniel Bergner)

This article is adapted from “The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches,” published this month by Ecco.

Caroline Mazel-Carlton began hearing voices when she was in day care. Mornings, by the time she was in middle school, a bowl of oatmeal awaited her for breakfast next to a white saucer of colorful pills. Her voices remained vibrant. They weren’t within her head; they spoke and screamed from outside her skull. They belonged to beings she could not see…

…Chacku Mathai, whose Indian family immigrated to the United States when he was a child, works as a project director with a large New York State-funded program, OnTrackNY, which combines an emphasis on medication with the inclusion of client perspectives about their care. And he facilitates Hearing Voices groups. During one of our many conversations, Mathai told me a parable about a traveler in a foreign land coming across a bird he has never seen before, a peacock. Thinking that such a freakish creature will never survive, the traveler cuts off its feathers to correct nature’s error.

Mathai, who hears voices and has visions and was hospitalized after a suicide attempt as a teenager, is something like the peacock, except that he rejects medication that would shear away his difference. By immersing himself in yogic practices, he gives his mind a measure of rest. Still, voices stalk him, suspicious of people and full of foreboding. Sometimes, he told me, he thinks about whether, if the perfect antipsychotic existed, he would take it. “My experience is so rich,” he said, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” He spoke of having a keen empathy for the singularity and solitude of others, a sensitivity that can bring a feeling of being universally joined.

Chacku Mathai, a Hearing Voices Network facilitator, in Rochester, N.Y.Credit.Danna Singer for The New York Times

(Read the Full Article: NYT subscription required)

Daniel Bergner is a contributing writer for the magazine. This article is adapted from his book “The Mind and the Moon: My Brother’s Story, the Science of Our Brains, and the Search for Our Psyches,” published this month by Ecco. Danna Singer is a photographer based in Philadelphia as well as a lecturer at Yale School of Art and Princeton. In 2020, she was named a Guggenheim fellow.

Journey to Wellness Guide by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick

May 20, 2022 (Reprinted from NYAPRS ENews)

NYAPRS Note: Longtime wellness expert and creator of the 8 Dimensions of Health Dr. Peggy Swarbrick has published a very special new tool, a Journey to Wellness Guide. “This Journey to Wellness Guide will help you find new ideas to use to begin or continue on your personal journey, no matter where you are in your life. If you have ever experienced chronic stress, addiction, trauma, or another life challenge, you will find examples here that have helped many to pursue and continue a journey to wellness. You can use the online full guide at https://alcoholstudies.rutgers.edu/wellness-in-recovery/journey-to-wellness-guide/ or the attached full sized or pocket PDFs.

Here’re an intro to the guide:

“Welcome to your own Journey to Wellness where you will find new ideas to use to begin or continue on your personal journey, no matter where you are in your life. If you have ever experienced chronic stress, addiction, trauma, or another life challenge, you will find examples here that have helped many to pursue and continue a journey to wellness, along with reminders about the importance of doing these simple activities and actions. Certain patterns of thinking and feeling can fuel unhealthy habits and behaviors. These patterns include insecurity, self-sabotage, and self-criticism, which can lead to neglecting your own health and wellness. Sometimes people let go of the things that help them feel well and strong, like hobbies and creative activities. Sometimes people let go of the people who help them feel well and strong, like friends and family. Overview The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. LAO TZU

AIM FOR PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION. The Journey to Wellness will help you create patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing to restore a sense of wellness. Planning to do just a single activity each day will make it more likely that you will complete it. Remember that you won’t always have the energy to take the actions you planned. Some days will be easier than others. Beating yourself up is not helpful. Instead, focus on the action you did take and will take. Remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day.

View the Pocket Guide
View the Full Guide

OMH Celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

May 20, 2022 (Reprinted from Matt Canuteson, OMH Diversity and Inclusion Officer)

Spotlight on Asian Americans - link to the resource
View the full Spotlight

Greetings,

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this month, we would like to honor and recognize the remarkable contributions and commitment that OMH’s Asian American and Pacific Islander employees make to the mental health field, every single day. We recognize the current and historic disparities that exist for these communities and as an Agency remain committed to ensuring that supports and services are put in place to promote equity and inclusivity for all.

OMH recognizes the increase in discrimination and injustices targeted towards these communities both historically and currently. We continue to implement activities and supports aimed at addressing the mental health impact that experiencing these situations have on individuals. In alignment with these efforts, we have convened an Asian American Mental Health Workgroup tasked with developing and implementing concrete strategies and initiatives aimed at addressing current and historic disparities and fostering support for these communities. With participation and support from NYC Council members, NYC government leaders, OMH leadership and other amazing providers and stakeholders, this workgroup meets regularly to identify policy, system, and program-level recommendations to be implemented across the system.

Additionally, we remain focused on increasing information sharing in an effort to further inform providers, advocates and stakeholders about unique challenges faced by minority communities. In alignment with these efforts, we continue to create numerous tip-sheets and resources focused on bringing awareness and attention to supports and services available for special populations. We invite you to explore the resource attached, Spotlight on Asian Americans which brings awareness to the unique challenges faced by this community as well as available resources and supports.

Asian American Spotlight

Read More from this letter from Matt Canutseon, OMH Diversity and Inclusion Officer

See More Resources on the National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER)

Addressing Community Grief and Trauma in the Wake of the Tragedy in Buffalo

May 19, 2022 (Reprint of Announcement of the OMH Webinar)

Letter by Commissioner Ann Sullivan on this week’s Tragedy in Buffalo

OMH would like thanks to those who took part in yesterday’s statewide community webinar, “Addressing Community Grief and Trauma in the Wake of the Tragedy in Buffalo.

Buffalo Shooting Tragedy

The presentation was designed to help community leaders – such as  clergy, education officials, local government, public safety leads, and behavioral health providers – with understanding how to assist individuals, families, and youth coping with the grief and trauma caused by this horrific event. The presentation provided general information about the mental health effects of racism and violence, crisis response, and helping others cope with grief and trauma. Specific information focused on children and youth.

While we discussed the impact of the tragic event in Buffalo, the focus was statewide. We were encouraged to see that more than 1,000 individuals who are interested in assisting with New York State’s healing process attended online.

If you weren’t able to attend, you can find a recording of the proceedings at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVmjFYnQPDM.

A copy of the presentation is also available at: https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/disaster_resources/buffalo-tragedy-webinar.pdf

Additional resources for New Yorkers impacted by the Buffalo shooting are available at: https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/disaster_resources/emergency-mental-health-resources.html

For a statement issued by NYAPRS following the shooting, click here.

For an article (distributed through NYAPRS ENews) on Societal Factors that Should Be Considered in Wake of Buffalo Shooting, click here.

For resources from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (provided by the NYS Trauma-Informed Network), see the following:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network – Resources in Response to the Buffalo Supermarket Hate Crime

Celebrating Older Americans Month

May 12, 2022 (Reposted from the National Center on Law and Elder Rights)

Happy Older Americans Month! Every May, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads the celebration of Older American’s Month, and this year’s theme, Age My Way, focuses on how older adults can age in their communities, living independently for as long as possible and participating in ways they choose.

Diverse communities are strong communities. Ensuring that older adults remain involved and included in our communities for as long as possible benefits everyone. Legal assistance, elder rights, and aging services professionals serve a critical role in enabling older adults to assert their rights and remove barriers to independence and self-determination. Centering equity in this work also helps ensure that older adults from marginalized and underserved communities do not face additional barriers to aging in place.

NCLER’s trainings and resources cover many ways that advocates can help older adults age their way.

(Learn More)

First Chief Disability Officer – Priorities

May 9, 2022 (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)
Reprinted from State’s First Chief Disability Officer Tackles Post-COVID-19 Priorities By Megan McGibney City and State   May 9, 2022 

Kimberly Hill, First Chief Disability Officer

Armed with funding provided in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $220 billion budget, the state’s first chief disability officer will begin addressing the most pressing needs of New Yorkers with disabilities. 

Advocates for people with disabilities said employment and housing issues in the aftermath of the pandemic would be the greatest priorities for Kimberly Hill, who has been serving as chief disability officer since she was appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in February. 

report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli last year found that unemployment rates for people with disabilities in New York between April 2020 and March 2021 rose more quickly and remained higher during the outbreak than the overall unemployment rate. 

“Historically, when there are economic and other types of crises, people with disabilities often are the first to be terminated, last to be rehired,” said Jan Fisher, executive director of Nonprofit Westchester. “Employment inclusion is probably one, if not the first, of the issues that the disability community, across disabilities, is concerned about.” 

Todd Vaarwerk – the chief policy director of Western New York Independent Living, a nonprofit that serves the Genesee Region – said transportation to work alone can be especially challenging, since a person with disabilities who lives in a less populated area may have fewer travel options for getting to a job. He said he would like for Hill to explore these types of granular employment issues before looking into the data of which companies hire persons with disabilities. 

Emily Papperman, an advocacy specialist at the Finger Lakes Independence Center in Ithaca, said Hill also should focus on helping people with disabilities clear hurdles that prevent them from landing jobs that align with their interests. 

“Folks with disabilities should be able to find work that they enjoy,” she said. “(Hill) should really have conversations about what those barriers to employment are, and what folks with disabilities want to do. Instead of going, ‘OK, here’s a bunch of people with disabilities. Let’s just put them in a certain place.’ They should be needed and valued because they have skills.  

(Read More)

National Prevention Week

May 8, 2022 (Reposted from the MHTTC Pathways)

National Prevention Week (NPW) is an annual observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, mental health and substance use disorders. Each year, SAMHSA honors NPW with daily themes to focus on major substance use and mental health topics. This year, SAMHSA is creating a new way to participate in National Prevention Week (NPW) through #MyPreventionStory. It is a way for us to acknowledge our mental health and substance use prevention experiences. The 2022 daily themes and suggested events/resources are found on our mental health awareness page here

#MyPreventionStory:

This year, SAMHSA is also creating a new way to participate in NPW through #MyPreventionStory. It is a way for us to acknowledge our mental health and substance use prevention experiences. Leading up to NPW, SAMHSA will be encouraging individuals and organizations to create and share a prevention story on social media—whether it’s telling how they are helping to prevent substance use or sharing the ways they’re promoting mental health during COVID-19. Click here to learn more!


For more information and access to SAMHSA’s NPW events and resources, click here.

Back to Basics

May 7, 2022 (Repost from Colleen Merlo, LMSW, CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness)

Back To Basics: Practical Mental Health Information

Colleen Merlo, LMSW, CEO of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness

The pandemic has been a catalyst for increased discussion about mental health, and we need to make sure this trend continues. In the past, when people thought about mental health the topic took a myopic view that focused on illness. While mental illnesses are common, widespread, and can affect anyone (around half of people in the U.S. will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life), this view left many people overlooking mental health and wellness. 

Increasingly, individuals, families, schools, businesses, and government are taking a broader view and recognizing that mental health is an important component of your overall health and well-being, just like your physical health. But mental health conditions, resources, and conversations can still feel complicated and out of reach.

An important first step is to learn common warning signs for mental health conditions or crises and specific factors that can lead to mental health conditions or even crises. Having a widespread understanding of the topic can help you be more informed if you, or someone you know, is experiencing a such a condition or crisis.

Each mental illness is different, though some have overlapping symptoms. There are, however, some warning signs like changes in sleep or eating patterns, experiencing and feeling fatigued, feeling hopeless, fighting more with friends and family, withdrawing, and thinking about or talking about suicide.

. . . click here to read the complete blog post.

Colleen Merlo, LMSW, is Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness. 

Wildflower Alliance News

May 6, 2022 (Reposted from the Wildflower Alliance, formerly Western Mass Recovery Learning Community)

The Wildflower Alliance is a grassroots Peer Support, Advocacy, and Training organization in Massachusetts with a focus on harm reduction and human rights. (Formerly known as the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community).

They rebranded in 2020 to better reflect their community building mission, as well as their international training and advocacy work. To learn more about the Wildflower Alliance, view the current issue of their newsletter and follow the links to visit their website.

(Click here to view the newsletter)

OMH News / Spring 2022

May 5, 2022 (Reprint from OMH Spring Newsletter)

OMH and its partners are working to increase awareness of mental health issues

Since it was first declared in 1949 by the organization known at the time as the National Association for Mental Health – now Mental Health America (MHA) – May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month  in the United States. MHA’s theme for this year’s observance is: “Back to Basics,” with the goal of providing foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions, and information about what people can do. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), meanwhile, has titled its celebration: “Together for Mental Health,” offering to use this time to bring voices together to advocate for mental health and access to care.

The wording may be different, but the essential concepts behind both are the same:

·    The trauma of mental illness is real.

·    Recovery is possible.

·    Support is vital.

·    Everyone should have an opportunity for a full life.

OMH is conducting several of its own activities during May to help make the public more aware of mental health issues and reduce the impact of stigma in our society. This edition of OMH News discusses some of these projects and the innovative programs the state continues to put into place to help those whose lives are affected by mental illness. We welcome your comments at: omhnews@omh.ny.gov.

(View the Spring 2022 OMH Newsletter)