Summer is here –- at last -– and for many people, thoughts turn to fun family getaways, sitting out by the pool or on the beach and sweet treats like ice cream or water ice to cool us down. But for people who are living on the street, these options of summer escapes aren’t so readily accessible.
Hundreds of people experience periods of street homelessness in Philadelphia, using street corners, transit hubs and parks as shelter. Heavily-traveled areas, particularly in and around Center City, reveal the faces of this sad reality. And while being homeless can be devastating enough for an individual, the problem is only compounded for those who are also living with an untreated mental illness, addiction, or both.
My belief in Jesus Christ has given me hope and opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. Growing up I was a nervous kid, fearful of having responsibilities that I was asked to perform, even simple ones. I thought I didn’t have the ability to complete the tasks. Even worse, I was often overlooked by authority figures to be given the duties in the first place. In my mind, they were confirming what I already believed to be true: I was too inadequate to take on responsibilities.
Carol Bangura,M.S. Ed., DrPH(c) Research Fellow, Immigrant Affairs & Language Access Services Unit
Planning & Innovation Division, DBHIDS
I’ve always known that I was different. Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, as an immigrant African woman, I have struggled with major depression all of my life. It’s a topic in my community, as in other communities of color, which is often swept under the rug.
My depression was caused by numerous issues. After struggling with this issue since my early years, I decided that sharing my experience with depression is a way of empowering other women and girls to do the same, while removing the stigma surrounding depression and other mental health disorders in diverse racial and ethnic communities.
Dr. Lawrence Real, MD Chief Medical Officer
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and as we celebrate recovery, we strive to increase awareness and work to end stigma around mental health. Through the offering of comprehensive services, resources, and access to behavioral healthcare, we have a strong commitment to helping youth, adults, and families in greatest need, especially as the rates of reported mental health challenges continue to rise, especially among our youth.
Last week was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week and now, more than ever, it’s critical that we all take some time to pay attention to the emotional health and well-being of our children.
Research about the healing benefits of yoga is growing. Many people are turning to yoga as an emotional release and to improve their mental health. How come? We know that our emotions can be felt as physical sensations in the body.
Ysaye Zamore Human Services Incident Response Planner
Much of our country has struggled with the outcome of this election cycle. That’s understandable: negativity, blame, lies, scheming, and misinformation (read: fake news) have plagued this election across both sides of the aisle. The result? Post-election stress.
Being born male or female comes with specific gender roles and perceived responsibilities with those roles in both a family and in society. In the eyes of my family and society, I was not the typical male that that everyone expected me to be. Growing up as a transgender woman was very difficult. I was not accepted and was subjected to physical, emotional, and social abuse.
Philadelphia Department of Public Health Division of Disease Control
We are facing a crisis in overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Between 2013 and 2015, fatal drug overdoses increased by more than 50%, from 459 deaths to 702. In 2016, Philadelphia is projected to have 840 drug overdose deaths, which is nearly three times the number of homicides in the city. Eighty percent of those overdose deaths will involve opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl.
Andrea October, MSS Clinical Projects Manager, Health Promotion
The snow is falling and the city is bright. There is a chill in the air and a feeling of joy. The decorations are hung, gifts secured, and family time is confirmed, yet, feelings of sadness and low energy are looming. Some feelings of sadness and low energy that you may not be aware of could possibly indicate a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Kathy Turnowchyk, M. Ed. Senior Program Manager, AccessMatters
Early in my career, I received a call at work from a young woman in crisis. She asked where she could place a baby for adoption. When I asked how far along her pregnancy was, I learned she had delivered her baby the night before in her dorm room…without the benefit of a doctor, midwife, hospital, prenatal care or family support. Fearful that her parents would find out, she refused my pleas to seek immediate medical care for her and her baby’s health.
Ballots were cast. Votes are in. A new president has been elected. Regardless of who you voted for, let’s face it, elections can be stressful.
Today, and in the weeks after the election, you and others around you, may be feeling particularly stressed as a response to the results. The stress and increased emotions can manifest differently in each of us, however, the presence of this stress within us is not to be underestimated. Immense and/or chronic stress can lead to anxiety, increased alcohol use, depression, and other serious health issues.
While these emotional responses are common and understandable, there are things that each of us can do to effectively cope and manage our stress. We have identified a number of strategies and resources to help our community members become and stay strong, resilient and well. Please find some helpful tips below.
If the 24-hour news cycle of claims and counterclaims is causing you stress and/or upsetting you, limit your media consumption. Turn off the TV. Take some time for yourself, go for a walk, or spend time with friends and family doing things that you enjoy.
Avoid getting into discussions about the election results, especially if you think they have the potential to escalate to conflict. Be cognizant of the frequency with which you’re discussing the results with friends, family, or coworkers.
Ruminating about what may happen in the future is not productive. Channel your concerns to make a positive difference on issues you care about. Consider volunteering in your community, advocating for an issue you support or joining a local group. Remember that there are opportunities for civic involvement.
If you are having trouble focusing or even going about your routine due to fear, try writing down your worst post-election fears, then address them. If you write them down on a piece of paper, you can address them one by one. Fact check. Think about what is actually possible. Hopefully, this exercise will help you relax and find some peace.
If you are experiencing a sense of panic, remember that very little will change overnight. Try to remind yourself that in the weeks to come, there will be very little immediate change for you and/or your family. The new president will not take office until January. And remember, our political system and the three branches of government mean that we can expect a significant degree of stability immediately after a major transition of government. Avoid catastrophizing, and maintain a balanced perspective.
According to a recent American Psychological Association article, social media users were more likely to report increased stress related to the election. If using social media is increasing your stress and charging you to respond emotionally, take a break from social media to remove the stressor.
Lastly, research shows that being a member of a faith community can provide important social support and comfort during stressful times. Faith can also help us to put events in proper perspective.
If you are still feeling very emotional, here are some additional resources below:
Call the Philadelphia Warm Line, 855-507-WARM (9276) or 267-507-3945, to speak with a person who also has experienced times of emotional stress. Peers are available Tuesday-Friday from 4-7 p.m.
Call our 24/7 Member Service Line, 888-545-2600, to learn about behavioral health services available in Philadelphia.
Lastly, if you or someone you care about is in extreme emotional distress and may cause harm to themselves or others, please contact DBHIDS’ Suicide and Crisis Intervention Hotline at 215-686-4420. Trained suicide/crisis intervention professionals are available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide counseling, consultation, and referrals for people seeking assistance for acute psychiatric needs.
Again, if you are having a stressful reaction to the election, it’s important to keep a balanced perspective and help yourself or those around you to cope by utilizing some of the resources above.
Lastly, although we cannot predict exactly what’s ahead as we transition to a new president, we promise one thing will remain constant and that is DBHIDS continues to remain committed to improving the lives of Philadelphians both physically and mentally now and well into the future.
Regine Tighlman Public Policy and Advocacy Chair, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
I lost my 23-year-old brother to suicide on Nov. 9, 2009. I was confused, hurt, angry, and really sad. I lost one of my best friends and what’s worse; I did not see it coming. He was never diagnosed with a mental health problem and, at the time, I did not recognize the signs as red flags.
Ysaye Zamore Human Services Incident Response Planner
September is National Preparedness Month. Over the next 30 days, we are encouraged to think about how to prepare for emergencies. While these may be situations that we cannot control, we can certainly prepare for them.
Most of us don’t think about emergency preparedness regularly. Most days we follow a regular routine. But emergency preparedness helps us most on the bad days that we can’t predict: the day when a natural disaster hits harder than expected, or when a candle falls over and starts a house fire, or when a winter storm knocks out power for a few days.
Kristina Boling-Smith, MSW, LSW Veterans Services Coordinator of the Veterans Initiatives Unit
Behavioral Health & Justice Related Services Division
On Memorial Day, many of us will be off from work, spending time with loved ones, but let us not forget what it signifies-- a day of remembrance for those service members who defended our country and paid the ultimate price.
Naima Black, Doula, CLC
Coordinator, North Philadelphia Breastfeeding & Community Doula Program
Maternity Care Coalition
In Collaboration With
L’Oreal McCollum, MSW, LSW, M.Ed.
Special Projects Coordinator
The second Sunday in May marked the special day that we celebrate motherhood. We celebrate the impact of mothers within our culture, as well as our personal maternal bonds. With May also being National Mental Health Awareness Month, both instances present a fitting occasion to celebrate and highlight the unique role of doulas in supporting maternal mental health and wellness.
Stephanie Mack Health Promotion Coordination Specialist, DBHIDS
Life is full of struggles, stress, challenges and obstacles. Getting through life's challenges isn't easy, especially when you feel you're alone. There are many ways to overcome obstacles and achieve well-being.
Content Manager - Graduation Coach Campaign - Philadelphia
in collaboration with
Dana Careless, LPC
Manager for Health Promotion - DBHIDS
Academic pressure. Report cards. Peer pressure. Detention. Test results.
When we think of ways to improve a student’s performance in school, improving his or her mental health isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind, but it may be one of the most important factors in student success.
Picture Citizens Bank Park Stadium. Look around at all of the seats, row after row, filled with over 40,000 spectators. Now, I want you to picture dividing the stadium into four equal parts, each part containing over 10,000 individuals. Statistically speaking, that entire group of people is living with a diagnosable mental health challenge.
"Walk it off." How many times have you heard someone say that to a person who needs to blow off some steam? We have heard that getting some fresh air and exercising can be a great way to relieve stress. But are our cities designed to encourage this? And if they're not, what does this mean about our stress levels and emotional well-being?
Nur Atiqa Asri, from the Center for Active Design, tackles this head on as she explores what it means to "actively commute" to work and how this shift can dramatically improve our physical and mental well-being. Check out her blog contribution below:
Andrea Brooks Manager of Provider Development and Transformation Initiatives DBHIDS
Brooke Feldman Project Coordinator PRO-ACT
When former DBHIDS team member, Brooke Feldman, passed the torch as lead captain of Team DBHIDS for PRO-ACT’s Recovery Walks! to Manager of Provider Development and Transformation Initiatives, Andrea Brooks in 2014, it signified the beginning of a partnership between two champions of recovery.
Wendy Williams, MSW Public Awareness and ChildFind Coordinator
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” said Margaret Mead, an American Cultural Anthropologist. This quote contains such truth and reflects the mission of an upcoming DBHIDS event called, My City, My Place Bright Future Awards on March 13th in Philadelphia. This one of a kind event acknowledges “that small group of thoughtful, committed citizens” who make this world a better place
Typically, the worst part of any great performance is when it’s over, but that wasn’t the case at a recent performance I attended as part of the 13th Annual First Person Arts Festival in Philadelphia. It was what happened after the curtain came down that I found most riveting: an opportunity for a profound community dialogue.
The performance featured Kathryn Erbe of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Zach Grenier of CBS' The Good Wife,Broadway star Alex Morf, and Barrymore Award nominee Julianna Zinkel in a dramatic reading of Act III of Eugene O’Neill’s play Long Day's Journey Into Night presented by First Person Arts. The reading painted a bold and intimate portrait of a family struggling under the weight of addiction – a real and important topic that affects millions of people.
Marcella A. Maguire, PhD Director for DBH Homeless Services
As the weather turns colder, and the holidays beckon, one group of DBHIDS staff and providers are gearing up for the most intense time of the year. Winter, colder temperatures, and ‘Code Blue’s mean that people who live on our streets must take extraordinary measures to survive. But the DBHIDS team who supports them, has a goal not just of survival but of recovery.
Manager of Public Health Policy & Planning
Were you one of the millions of Americans who got health insurance coverage for yourself or your family during last year’s open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? If not, here’s your opportunity!
Today, like any day, you may peruse online, send a few tweets or Facebook posts, give or get advice from a family member or friend, grab coffee or lunch, or run into your local grocery store to pick up the essentials on your way home. We all have our daily routines, a rhythm to things that keep us moving through our hectic schedules.
But what if you could do something that could make a big difference for yourself and those you care about, all without missing a beat?
A new season of Porch Light tours is upon us! We are so grateful to be partnering with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program on the "Rise and Shine Mural Tour" inspired by James Burns' stunning mural The North Philadelphia Beacon Project. Take this opportunity to see beautiful public art and learn about inspiring journeys of recovery and healing.
Have you ever wondered how your thoughts can shape how you feel and how you act?
Or did you just do a check-up from the neck up and are ready to take another step towards getting the support you need to feel better?
Recovery is the process of pursuing a fulfilling and contributing life regardless of the difficulties one has faced. It involves not only the restoration but continued enhancement of a positive identity and personally meaningful connections and roles in one’s community. Recovery is facilitated by relationships and environments that provide hope, empowerment, choices, and opportunities that promote people reaching their full potential as individuals and community members.
“I’m going in for a check –up.” Typically we think of check-ups as they relate to our physical health – be it our cholesterol, blood pressure, or weight. We want to take it one step further and encourage you to get a “check up from the neck up." Coined by Patrick Kennedy, encouraging folks to get a “check up from the neck up” is one of our missions. We want everyone to feel comfortable touching base with how they are feeling.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a groundbreaking public education and early intervention program that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of behavioral health challenges. MHFA will be available at the "Breaking The Silence on Mental Wellness: Real Talk, Real Help, Real Solutions Conference” on April 4th and 5th, 8:00am-6:00pm, at Temple School of Medicine 3500 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140. This conference is focused on addressing stigma related to behavioral health within the African American community. Over 50 diverse workshops geared toward a wide variety of audiences. Behavioral health screenings will be provided to conference participants as part of Saturday's resource fair.
The national anti-stigma campaign #IWillListen is coming to Philadelphia! #IWillListen is based on the belief that through listening and understanding everyone can play a role in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.
When it comes to physical injuries or illness, there is an abundance of sources of information, both online and offline, to guide you to the help you need to get better. Websites, books, family or friends, there’s always somewhere you can turn to. But information and resources about mental illness can be a lot harder to find. It’s not surprising, then, that there are a lot of misperceptions when it comes to behavioral health challenges. Here at DBHIDS, we’re aiming to change that.