Community Conversations Reduce Stigma and Reinforce Why Mental Health Matters

Montefiore Holds Series of Bronx Events in Recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month

BRONX, N.Y., May 23, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- No longer a "silent struggle," hundreds of Bronx residents and families impacted by a wide range of conditions that affect, mood, thinking and behaviors, participated in Montefiore Health System events held throughout the last two months in recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month. Event topics were requested by community members and led by Montefiore's department of Psychiatry and its Office of Community & Population Health (OCPH).

"These events were incredibly emotional and inspirational as each one was informed by individual neighborhoods expressing what was most important to them - ranging from mindfulness to distress to victimization and violence," said Liz Spurrell-Huss, MPH, MSW director, Health Equity Programs, OCPH. "Each event was different, but every time we were moved by how open and engaged everyone was about topics that are often highly stigmatized and hard to discuss."

The events were held in partnership with local community-based organizations, including:

    --  Breaking Ground - Park House, La Central, Boston Road
    --  Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA)
    --  Pastoral Migratoria Saint Antony Of Padua Church
    --  Presbyterian Senior Services (PSS) Life University
    --  Regional Aid for Interim Needs (RAIN): Middletown Center, Gun Hill
        Senior Center, Tolentine Senior Center and Parkchester Senior Center
    --  Riverdale Senior Services: Schervier Apartments, Marble Hill Senior
    --  St. Luke Episcopal Church

"Hearing each person's stories, struggles and triumphs out in the community is an honor - and it is an essential step in bringing people who need mental health support into treatment," said Dr. Ana Ozdoba, director, Psychiatry Residency Training, Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "It was also an invaluable experience for our psychiatry residents, who are newer to the field, as it reinforces why we are here in the Bronx and the importance of community partnerships in addressing today's mental health crisis."

To close Mental Health Awareness Month, the Montefiore Child Outpatient Psychiatry Division led by Dr. Jenny Seham, partnered with HearYourSong, a nonprofit that empowers children and teens with serious illnesses and complex health needs to make their voices heard through songwriting, will present a concert featuring original songs about topics ranging from friendship to struggling with depression.

Seham, who serves as Director, Arts and Integrative Medicine and Montefiore Einstein's Youth Empowerment Series (YES), expressed, "Children in our community are feeling unprecedented levels of sadness and hopelessness; students of color are at elevated risk for increased stress, anxiety and depression. YES highlights the strength, resilience, and creativity of local youth through arts performances and exhibits. Their songs have a powerful impact on themselves and the audience; the concert is a true community healing experience."

Montefiore is a designated Behavioral Center of Excellence by the New York State Office of Mental Health and earlier this year, announced plans create a new pediatric inpatient psychiatry unit in the Bronx.

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SOURCE Montefiore Health System