Mental Illness is a Liar!

Mental Illness is a Liar! Let me say that again, mental illness is a liar.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that all those thoughts that we carry around with us, “No one cares about me”, “My life is meaningless”; “If I don’t touch the doorknob 5 times something bad will happen”, “I can control my substance use” are examples of distortions of reality.  A person is considered having a mental illness when those thoughts cannot be controlled over a long period of time.  Most of us will never know what it is like to truly have a mental illness and that is a blessing.  Mental illness is persistent over time and across all areas of one’s life.


May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss mental illness in our society. One of the core values of the United States is the idea that people should be independent, that they should be able to stand alone and pull themselves up by their bootstraps.  This principle can sometime lead to isolation and resistance toward getting help by those who have a mental illness.  Therapy and medication management are considered tools for the weak minded, yet other equally biological conditions have no stigma, no sense of shame attached that deter people from getting appropriate medical attention.


In this age of scientific vigor, we are learning more and more about how our brain works and we are isolating factors that help us determine who is at risk to develop a mental illness. We are learning which experiences lead to long term emotional dysregulation and thought distortions.  We are learning which treatment approaches show promise and for which conditions.  We have begun to shape treatment around these evidence-based practices.  All this scientific data will mean nothing if people are too afraid to seek help.


Stigma is one of the enemies of treatment for mental illness. It is the chain that stops us from getting help.  It is the fear that we will only be seen as our disorder or that people will be afraid of us that keeps many from seeking the help that is needed.  There have been a brave few in the public eye that have acknowledged their diagnoses and who have tried to stop the tide of stigma from consuming all in its path.  The cure for stigma is to acknowledge those will mental illness and to see them as they are flawed but worthy of care, concern and our deepest regard.

My name is Lynda Guzman, I am the ACT Team Leader and have a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis. PTSD is a disorder that means that something harmful happened to me and left me with emotional scars that were outside the realm of what could normally be expected. I suffered for years with flashbacks and nightmares, heightened anxiety and depression.  I have used both medication and evidenced-based strategies to manage my symptoms to the point that I am considered well into recovery.


When I sit with my clients and I hear their stories I have an insight into what it is like to have a mental illness. I know how difficult it is to motivate yourself to try something new, to have faith that an intervention will work, or even that they might not feel as though they are worthy of being helped.  I draw from myself all those good and bad experiences that I have had to bring hope and optimism to the equation.  I remember what it felt like to be lied to by my mental illness, to think that no one cared or would ever care about me.  Although these are distant memories for me, I realize that they are the everyday reality for some of our recipients.  We all have the potential to recover and live productive, meaningful lives.  If you have symptoms or know someone who does, please know that we are here for you.  We will help you onto the road of recovery.

By Lynda Guzman, ACT Team Leader

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. 

Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS)

Change Happens

As of late, more service providers are recognizing the importance of paying attention to the whole person, not just the diagnosis (although a diagnosis is a crucial beginning). Recipients of various services are saying loudly, “We are more than a diagnosis. We are not a set of symptoms that can be medicated or counseled away. We are complex and we want service providers to pay attention to and help us with what matters to us!”

At the Program for Self-Discovery- Change Happens- (a/k/a PROS) we have been looking at the whole person for some time. We embrace a model of inclusion and wholeness that invites the person in treatment to be an integral part of the treatment approach. We focus on concerns that extend beyond the diagnosis and the symptoms that impact the quality of life.

We look at what the person wants to do with his life and then set out to help him face and remove the barriers that prohibit him from accomplishing those goals. We offer traditional tools such as counseling, medicines and clinical strategies, as well as addressing diet, exercise and gaining a positive outlook.

Most recently we initiated two new groups based on feedback from the participants that reflect the importance of considering the whole person. One group is a healthy eating class and the second is a volunteer group.

The healthy eating class helps participants think about what they are eating, what they are buying and how they can shop and cook to improve their health and general outlook on life. This group includes outings to local supermarkets to read labels and compare prices to make the best choices. The group will culminate with the participants purchasing the necessary ingredients, cooking and sharing a healthy meal.

The volunteer group supports people facing social anxiety. In this group, participants as a group research and engage in volunteer activities in the community. Many of the participants want to work or contribute to society in a way that is meaningful. However, the grips of anxiety get in the way of them accomplishing the goal. To help move past this barrier, the group will participate in a shared volunteer activity. In this way, each one gets the support of the other as they learn how to interact in a work-like setting.

In these two very specific ways, PROS continues to adapt its services beyond the group room to the community where the participants work and live.

It’s a Girl’s World – A Survival Guide for Today

MHA’s Rockland Success Team is proud to present our Annual “What’s Cool” Conference “It’s a Girl’s World – A Survival Guide for Today!”

Each year we address the current concerns that girls are facing in terms of self-confidence, exploring tools for success, understanding parents, thinking about positive role models, and finding purpose and happiness in life.

This program attracts 100 girls each year from grades 7 to 12 from Rockland County schools. All girls in grades 7 through 12 are welcome to attend and become more empowered!

This year’s event will take place at the Finkelstein Library, Fielding Room at 24 Chestnut Street in Spring Valley NY on Saturday March 24, 2018 from 1:30 to 3 pm. Doors open at 1 pm and admission ends at 1:30 pm. We cannot admit younger siblings.

Each girl receives refreshments, a goody bag and 2 hours of community service credit for college applications.

If you have questions please call 845 267 2172 x324.


MHA Year in Review

By President & CEO Stephanie Madison


As we begin a new year, we look back with gratitude and pride in all that the clients and staff of MHA of Rockland accomplished in 2017. Here are just a few highlights that reflect our passion for and commitment to partnering with community members in the spirit of health and healing:

  • 94% of our clients in Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) maintained stable housing. This outcome is particularly significant as individuals in ACT are at especially high risk of losing their housing due to complications from serious mental illness.
  • 100% of children and adolescents in our Care Management program stayed out of the hospital for mental health conditions
  • 92% of individuals in our Adult Care Management program did not require inpatient psychiatric treatment
  • 80% of individuals who graduated clean and sober from our Recovery Services program had been engaged with us for over six months. This statistic is crucial as data reveals that longer term engagement is the foundation for sustained recovery.
  • More than 1,000 Rockland County community members received education and training from MHA staff on various behavioral health topics including suicide prevention, signs and symptoms of addiction, life-saving drug overdose interventions, and mental wellness.

2018 looks bright. We are embarking on new initiatives and projects that will continue to propel our mission driven services and strengthen the impact we have on those we serve. We are confident that our reach will expand, and that those who need us most will have greater access to our resources. This is all possible due to the remarkable work of our staff, Board, donors, and community partners. For this, we offer our appreciation and gratitude, looking forward with hope and inspiration.