Mental Health & Wellness 101

By Wendy Blanchard


With Mental Health Awareness week approaching, the MHA of Rockland is excited to announce the release of the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.’s (MHANYS) training program, Mental Health & Wellness 101! MHA’s Wendy Blanchard was honored to be a part of creating this training as a resource and support for the newly implemented New York State Mental Health Education Law which began on July 1. New York is the first state to implement this law.
MHANYS asks “Why is it important to talk about mental health and wellness?”
The median time between the onset of mental illness (when symptoms first appear) and when an individual gets appropriate treatment is 10 years.  During that time, a person is likely experiencing periods of increased symptomology and periods of wellness.  Mental Health and recovery are dependent on an individual’s ability to recognize and manage where they are each day on the continuum between wellness and illness, and to take care accordingly. Education and early intervention promotes wellness and leads to better outcomes.
MHA of Rockland is now offering training sessions which are approximately 90 minutes long, including a Q & A session.
Goals of the Training:
  • Increase basic knowledge of mental health to help reduce stigma.
  • Understand Mental Health as a continuum of wellness that defines us every day — it is illness, recovery and all of the space in between.
  • Promote wellness, treatment seeking behavior, recovery and self-care.
Ideas for training location/audience:
  • Community events or civic organizations (libraries, wellness conferences, etc.)
  • Workplace wellness (chamber of commerce events, business “lunch and learn”, etc.)
  • Staff development (schools, hospitals, community service providers, etc.)
For more information, or to schedule a Mental Health and Wellness 101 training, please contact Wendy Blanchard, M.S., CHHC, CPS, Client & Family Advocate and Community Educator at, or 845-267-2172 Ext. 296.  Wendy will also be a speaker and panelist at the MHANYS Healthy Minds, Healthy Schools, Healthy New York Conference on October 17th in Albany!

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Join us for “The Ripple Effect”

By Sonia Wagner, EVP


In the many years when I worked at a crisis response center, answering hotline calls from people who had suicidal thoughts, I was often amazed by a common theme – their sense of being invisible.


I had expected the feelings of isolation and hopelessness that callers also related to me, but I was taken aback by something that seemed to run still deeper and often against all evidence to the contrary – their conviction that no one noticed their pain or, by extension, them.


I have known many people who have struggled with depression, and their withdrawal from life was quite palpable to nearly everyone around them – the phone calls that went unreturned, the food that went uneaten, the parties that we were missed, the sick days that were called in. I have also known people who could feign happiness, at least for a short time. However, after the party was over and the guests had gone home but well before the dishes were put away, the heaviness would set in and the energy required for all of that levity would visibly take its toll.


Many who struggle with suicidal feelings believe that no one notices these things. Without a doubt, many of their friends, relatives and colleagues have noticed and may be quite worried but are afraid to bring up their concerns or simply don’t know how to pursue the issue when they are told “Thanks, I’m fine – just a bit tired.”


Eventually, people stop asking questions. For the depressed person, this may falsely translate to “nobody notices or cares.” Kevin Hines, a passionate mental health advocate, leaped off the Golden Gate Bridge at the age of 19. Being among a very small number to survive this jump, he subsequently described his bus trip to the bridge, during which he was in tears. At the time, it seemed to him that nobody noticed his distress; at least, nobody approached him. He told himself that if anyone said anything of concern to him, he would not jump.


It is hard to imagine that people sitting near him didn’t notice his crying. Perhaps they were afraid to talk with an emotional stranger, or perhaps the bystander effect kicked in and they felt sure that someone else would intervene. Whatever the reason, Kevin Hines felt increasingly invisible and ultimately jumped.


How does it help to understand that a false sense of invisibility is a common ingredient in suicidal thinking? It has given me much greater comfort in asking questions, commenting in a gentle voice on what I’m seeing in someone that concerns me, and not being dissuaded by their trying to put me off. When we overcome our own discomfort and inquire about thoughts of suicide to someone who is struggling, offer help or insist on getting help, we address the fundamental human need of that person to be seen.



Sonia Wagner is the Executive Vice President of The Mental Health Association of Rockland County. The agency is co-hosting a showing of the film “The Ripple Effect,” featuring Kevin Hines, on September 26 at 7:30 pm at Nanuet Stadium 12 & RPX. To order tickets, go to


Would Residential Services Help Me in My Recovery?

Residential Services offer housing and essential rehabilitation services to people diagnosed with serious psychiatric disabilities and those living with behavioral health challenges. The day-to-day rehabilitative and support activities performed in community residences and other housing settings are vital for people who face the daily challenges of living with a psychiatric disability, but who want to live independent, productive and satisfying lives as members of the community.

The settings can be either transitional or permanent and the supports and services are personalized and fluid including counseling and crisis intervention. The programs are intended to respond to the needs of individuals who have expressed a desire to live independently, but as a result of symptoms, psychosis or frequent hospitalizations and crisis cannot obtain or maintain independent living. The goal of each program is to provide residents with a safe, comfortable, supportive place to live as they continue their recovery and acquire the skills needed to achieve their desired level of independence.

There are different settings for residential services, not necessarily a continuum but rather based on a person’s needs and desires. Services are based on a person’s personal desires and strengths and are actually identified after application is complete. Some programs are in community residences, where many components are conducted in small group forums with an emphasis on relationships and self-help. Others are in apartment settings throughout the community, with two or three people sharing the apartment and counselors visit to provide services and support. Supported Housing programs offer permanent independent living with residential assistance as needed/desired.

Residential services can provide a place for you to gain independence while you learn to manage your disability. Whether you need just a little help getting back on your feet or more extensive support, it is provided in a place where you can feel at home. Services offered are independent living skills, medication and symptom management, socialization and self expression skills. For one person services might include learning to build small, practical steps to lessen the effect of symptoms on your functioning or to know how to take action before symptoms become a major problem. For another the focus might be on stabilizing their health or learning a healthy new dietary routine in a supportive setting.

The lower level of stress is often just the environment to interrupt and stop a pattern of multiple hospitalizations and crisis. A residential service program might help you to avoid a hospitalization or enable you to shorten a hospitalization. A place to live and focus on your recovery can ease the strain on familial or other social relationships. Dedicated counselors are always available to offer support and advocacy in all areas of your life and recovery.

The process of applying and/or deciding to live in a residence program is very individualized and relaxed. Programs offer opportunities to meet those who live and work in the programs and to visit the locations prior to deciding. You are able to include others whom you feel you want to be part of your decision. Discharge planning begins at the time of application with the ultimate goal always for residential services to assist you to be successful in your recovery and attain the most independent living you want!

By Maggie Trainor, Director/Residential Services

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Facts About Alcohol

Alcohol is the most widely abused drug in history yet it remains the most accepted across ages, races, and cultures.
1 drink = 12-ounce bottle of beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system slowing heart rate, respiration, and altering emotions, and cognition.

Alcohol not only can cause intoxication, but in larger does can also cause death.

A general rule is that one drink is metabolized every hour and a half. When the blood alcohol concentration increases faster than the body can remove the alcohol from the system, intoxication occurs.

It has been suggested that pregnant women abstain from all use of alcohol, as this substance can severely harm the developing fetus.

Alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine. Several things will affect the rate of absorption including the concentration of alcohol in the drink, rate of consumption, the amount of food in the stomach, and the emotional state of the drinker. After it is absorbed into the bloodstream, alcohol disperses throughout the body. The body starts to eliminate alcohol on ingestion this is why drinkers have to use the bathroom very often. Most of the alcohol ingested must be eliminated by the processes of detoxification, and oxidation. Detoxification occurs only in the liver, where the alcohol is broken down into acetaldehyde. The acetaldehyde is then broken down to acetic acid which can be burned off by any organ with a dense blood supply.

Health and Behaviors

After 3 drinks—BAC of 0.08%-0.09% the motor functions show impairment, and reaction time slowed. The ability to concentrate on more than one task at a time is affected.

After 5 drinks (BAC of .14-.15%), vision and hearing are affected, with blurred vision, and lessened ability to distinguish sounds.

After 7 drinks (BAC of .20%) mental confusion occurs, and the drinker may find it difficult to move around without aid. The ability to tolerate alcohol at this level is an indicator of alcoholism. This stage is usually not passed unless alcohol is consumed very quickly.

After 10 or more drinks (BAC of .40% and up) results in the loss of consciousness and death from respiratory failure.


A brief assessment tool commonly used to help determine if an individual might be suffering from an alcohol problem:

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  • Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  • Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye opener)?


  • Students can join the SADD (Students against Destructive Decisions) club at their school.
  • Wear red during the month to stand for alcohol awareness.
  • Host an alcohol-free community block party.