Time to Remove the Stigma of Mental Illness

October 18, 2017

For those of you that don’t know, we have had multiple recent suicides on Roosevelt Island. We lost two Island women due to suicide in a two month period. I believe one jumped from a window, and the other jumped off her balcony. Approximately five years ago, another woman jumped off a balcony. I believe we, as a community, need to have a conversation to address mental health in our community and learn some tools to help combat its effects. 


There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. It is clear that seniors,  working adults, teens, and children all have different risk factors. We need to make sure that we make the right kinds of information available to address the various demographics in this community.


Community Board 8 and a couple of our elected officials’ offices are working toward developing programs on the Island to help those dealing with mental health issues. We should move forward and really start addressing mental health issues in the community and make the relevant information readily available. 


One approach that is being discussed is a series of roundtables to talk about how we can engage people and get them information.


Another thing we’d like is to have entities that disseminate information in the community and post hotline numbers on their websites. Groups that specialize in certain age ranges should have a dialogue with their members and inform people what to do if they are concerned about someone, as well as making training and information available. 


Another idea is partnering with the elected officials to create magnets that people can put on their refrigerators with hotline numbers and other relevant information, so everybody in the community has ready access to tools that can help.


We have been reaching out to some of the mental health professionals in the City, including the Mayor’s wife, who has a particular interest in making people aware of, and facilitating. mental health issues in the City.


A program called Mental Health First Aid offers an eight-hour course to teach community members to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance abuse problem or experiencing a crisis.


Education can save lives. Think about it: you can’t do Hands Only CPR on yourself, let alone when you are struggling. Often, it is others, not you, who notice you’re not okay. It is imperative that we, as a community, learn how to identify the warning signs and give people tangible tools to use to guide their loved ones through these problems so they can help save their lives. 


There are hotlines that have recently been set up in the City, for example, HOTLINE 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355), The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and website 1-800-273-8255 and www.sprc.org, as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org). We want to make that information available and get that information into people’s homes. 


One way to get started is to sign this pledge and take a stand against the mental illness stigma: makeitok.org/take-the-pledge


Additionally, October 10 each year is World Mental Health Day. It is celebrated by raising awareness of what can be done to ensure that people with mental health problems can live with dignity. We should find an appropriate way to celebrate it next year.



Lynne Strong-Shinozaki

Vice President, Roosevelt Island Residents' Association


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