Zero Suicide Initative

By Stephanie Madison, President & CEO


MHA of Rockland is embracing Zero Suicide. Zero Suicide is a commitment to suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems that includes a specific set of tools and strategies. It is both a concept and a practice that works to improve care and outcomes for individuals at risk of suicide, aspiring to reduce the number of deaths by suicide to zero. The initiative represents a commitment to client safety, the most fundamental responsibility of health care, and also to the safety and support of clinical staff, who do the demanding work of treating and supporting suicidal clients.

The programmatic approach of Zero Suicide is based upon a model of eight essential elements:

1. Lead – Create a leadership-driven, safety-oriented culture committed to dramatically reducing suicide among people under care. It includes survivors of
suicide attempts and suicide loss in leadership and planning roles.
2. Train – Develop a competent, confident, and caring workforce.
3. Identify – Systematically identify and assess suicide risk among people receiving care.
4. Engage – Ensure every individual has a pathway to care that is both timely and adequate to meet his or her needs. Include collaborative safety planning and
restriction of lethal means.
5. Treat – Use effective, evidence-based treatments that directly target suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
6. Transition – Provide continuous contact and support, especially after acute care.
7. Improve – Apply a data-driven quality improvement approach to inform system changes that will lead to improved patient outcomes and better care for those at risk.

We are enormously grateful that three members of our staff have been trained in the initiative, and will be serving as our Zero Suicide Champions. Our launch has begun with an organizational assessment and a workforce survey that will result in data for analysis to improve staff training and client services. We will also be engaging in a nationwide Zero Suicide Community, collaborating with other health care and behavioral health providers, receiving technical assistance, sharing challenges and success stories. We are inspired to embrace the difficult work ahead as we continue to provide trauma informed care, reduce stigma, educate the public, and create healthier communities.

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

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.